Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Shelby Steele Unplugged

In a breathtakingly blunt column, Shelby Steele argues that the Sotomayor nomination reveals Obama’s promise of post-racialism to be a lie:

Throughout her career Judge Sotomayor has demonstrated a Hispanic chauvinism so extreme that it sometimes crosses into outright claims of racial supremacy, as in 2001 when she said in a lecture at the University of California, Berkeley, “a wise Latina woman . . . would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male.”

The White House acknowledges that this now famous statement — both racist and dim-witted — was turned up in the vetting process. So we can only assume that the president was aware of it, as well as Judge Sotomayor’s career-long claim that ethnicity and gender are virtual determinisms in judging: We need diversity because, as she said in her Berkeley lecture, “inherent physiological or cultural differences . . . make a difference in our judging.” The nine white male justices who decided the Brown school-desegregation case in 1954 might have felt otherwise, as would a president seeking to lead us toward a new, post-racial society.

And, as Shelby observes, rather than rejecting the model of perpetual grievance and identity politics, Obama chose someone who exemplifies it: “But in the real world of Supreme Court nominations, where there is a chance to actually bring some of that idealism down to earth, he chooses a hardened, divisive and race-focused veteran of the culture wars he claims to transcend.”

Her many speeches (“wise Latina” and others), the perpetual agitation for more minority hiring in elite schools, and the membership in La Raza and like-minded organizations do convey the picture of someone utterly devoted to racial preferences and identity politics. These are the telltale signs of what Steel calls “challengers” —  those who see “the moral authority that comes from their group’s historic grievance as an entitlement to immediate parity with whites — whether or not their group has actually earned this parity through development.” But does this matter for a judge? Very much so — and we’ve seen it play out. As Shelby points out:

Challengers are essentially team players. Their deepest atavistic connection is to their aggrieved race, ethnicity or gender. Toward the larger society that now often elevates and privileges them, they carry a lingering bad faith — and sometimes a cavalier disregard where whites are concerned, as with Judge Sotomayor in the Ricci case.

Well, I’m not sure it’s bad faith (and I wouldn’t attribute any ill-will on her part to the nation at large), but it certainly requires that one suspend disbelief (to borrow a phrase) that there are no resulting casualties in the practicing the politics of race. Frank Ricci reminds us that there are.

And let’s not forget: on the Supreme Court, with a lifetime appointment, there will be few, if any, restraints on her ability to apply that mentality to the cases before her and to use her perch on the Court to spread the “challenger” gospel. Given that, the Senate should think hard, very hard about this nomination.



Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.