“Race matters. Race matters in part because of the long history of racial minorities’ being denied access to the political process…Race also matters because of persistent racial inequality in society…And race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away. Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grew up. Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, “No, where are you really from?”, regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home. Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: “I do not belong here.” In my colleagues’ view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination. This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable.”
–—-Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotamayor, dissenting in the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative, Integration and Immigration and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary, in which a 6-2 majority ruled that Michigan voters could ban race-based preferences at universities without violating the Constitution.
This screed was remarkably unprofessional for a Supreme Court Justice, an emotional recitation of unsupported assertions, perceptions and complaints with no constitutional relevance. Sotamayor, you may recall, was nominated by the President in the midst of a public debate regarding the importance of “empathy” on the bench, code for “we need more women.” But the Constitution is supposed to be interpreted by principles of law and legal reasoning, not from “the heart.” Well, we clearly got the empathetic Justice he wanted, for better or worse.
Yes, race matters. And gender matters, as girls become acculturated at an early age to be submissive and to see themselves as defined by how males regard them. Being gay matters, certainly, as children feel isolated and out of place. Religion certainly matters, as it can make you seem different, or dangerous, or weak. Not having a father matters, or being an orphan, or growing up in a foster home, or being poor. Being small, or short, or fat, or unattractive matters. Yes, and stupidity matters too, as does being clumsy, and socially awkward, or having a speech impediment, or other, more serious physical handicaps. It matters when you are poor at making friends, and when your parents are drunks or criminals, or when they rape, abuse or beat you.
I agree that race can be a significant burden in America; I also know that a lot of African-Americans and Hispanic Americans and others have compensating advantages, including strength of character and a solid upbringing, that allows them to succeed despite any disadvantages conferred by their race. I also know that there are many, many white Americans who labor under other disadvantages of birth, family or circumstance that make the plight of typical black Americans look very manageable by comparison.
What Sotomayor calls “stark reality” is her own bias, allowing her to isolate the very real problems of some groups and justify placing them above the rights of their fellow citizens, guaranteed in the founding documents, the Declaration and the Constitution. The decision she derides doesn’t deny that race matters, but that it matters more than that guarantee.
Pointer and Source: Althouse