Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Why Mark Davis Can't Read

OK. Maybe I don't know why he can't. I mean, I'm assuming he had the same standardized tests I did, the ones that - in addition to determining if you can do basic math - score your ability to find the meaning of a passage by looking at its context. And Lord help us, someone passed him, even with his rudimentary reading comprehension skills. Then they gave him a microphone, and a keyboard connected to computer, and someone decided to give him a stage in both two facets of media. To that someone or someones, my ball peen hammer would like to meet you. Today, Davis devoted an entire column to Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comments. He's against them, or whatever. He is pretty sure Sotomayor is going to show way too much empathy or something and then it'll be all vaya con caca rio with the whole Constitution. Because she's a wise Latina. To that, I say, hmpfh. I'll take a wise Latina any day over a buffoon Caucasian. But you see, Davis just took that one little line - just like virtually every other suddenly afflicted white rich guy of GOP descent out there has - and turned it into an entire movement. Suddenly, there's much hand wringing. "Surely this 'wise Latina' comment means she hates the whites, right? No? Well, can we say that's what it means?" I imagine the strategy sessions in Wingnut Village go. I have this incredibly nerdy hobby called research. When Sotomayor was nominated, I started reading everything reputably published about her that I could get my browser and/or hands on. When the New York Times published the complete transcript of the speech where "wise Latina" originated, I read it. Davis, apparently, did not. The speech was made for the Judge Mario G. Olmos Memorial Lecture in 2001. It was part of a symposium entitled, "Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation." So wow, whodathunk it? She'd talk about being a Latina in the judicial system. So out of left field, that is. I'll pause while you wrap your head around that. If anything, this is a speech about opportunities in the judiciary for a certain minority. It's about the opportunities that existed then, and the ones she hoped would occur in the future. No doubt that day, she inspired many Latino and Latina students to pursue a similar career path. And that, of course, would bring diversity to the judiciary, something nearly everyone except - to ironically borrow a phrase from Bill O'Reilly - a few pinheads. But let's look at context. Yes, she did say:
I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.
But she followed up with this:
I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.
Hardly racist. So what did she mean by "wise Latina?" For that, we need to look at the culture. As Carolina Miranda pointed out in her excellent piece in Time, the wise Latina traditionally is a woman everyone turns to for advice. She is the vast and acknowledged storehouse of information and knowledge. She is wise. Isn't that what we want in a judge? Someone wise? Someone who is a vast repository of Constitutional knowledge? Someone who, weighing what she knows to be true points of law, can objectively advise? As Miranda pointed out in her piece, Sotomayor was trying to convey that "her breadth of experience navigating different worlds might lead her to have greater wisdom on certain topics than her white male counterparts. " And, as Miranda also pointed out, Samuel Alito said much the same thing:
"When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender."
So Mark Davis, I know research is arduous and not as fun as say, speaking out of your posterior, but remember this: Do do the latter, you have to show everyone your butt.