The Cruel Tyranny of Wise Latinas


As Damon notes below, my friend Ilya Somin says he is "not favorably impressed" with Sonia Sotomayor's stated 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." This seems completely innocuous to me; being Hispanic in the United States means exposure to both a dominant and minority culture, and one might expect such exposure to favorably affect the process of deciding difficult, marginal cases. But Ilya characterizes the sentiment as left-wing identity politics. Perhaps he would be more impressed if he considered the statement in context. She goes on to say 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.


While recognizing the potential effect of individual experiences on perception, Judge Cedarbaum nevertheless believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law. Although I agree with and attempt to work toward Judge Cedarbaum's aspiration, I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases.


No one person, judge or nominee will speak in a female or people of color voice.

I doubt Sotomayor and I agree on much, but this is a good speech. She aspires to impartiality but isn't deluded enough to pretend that the totality of her life experience will have no bearing on the act of judging. There is nothing remotely unlibertarian about any of this; it's common sense in the face of blinkered, pseudo-religious romanticism about objectivity. And I'd rather not cede common sense to the left.