The Race Obsession

…of Judge Sotomayor:

A disinterested observer would conclude that Justice Sotomayor is race-obsessed. In her now much quoted 2001 UC Berkeley speech she invoked “Latina/Latino” no less than 38 times, in addition to a variety of other racial-identifying synonyms. When one reads the speech over, the obsession with race become almost overwhelming, and I think the public has legitimate worries (more than the Obama threshold of 5% of cases) over whether a judge so cognizant of race could be race-blind in her decision making.

I would not wish to be a member of what she termed in the speech the “old-boy network” in a case in her chambers pitted against a self-identified “Latina.” Indeed, if one were to substitute the word “white” for “Latina” in the speech, it would be rightly derided as a classical display of racialist chauvinism.

One of the many and enduring lies of the Obama campaign was that it was going to usher in a post-racial America.

[Update a few minutes later]

A relevant passage from the book about this kind of stuff:

You might say it’s outrageous to compare the current liberal program to help minorities with the poisonous ideology of fascism and Nazism. And I would agree if we were talking about things like the Holocaust or even Kristallnacht. But at the philosophical level, we are talking about categorical ways of thinking. To forgive something by saying “it’s a black thing” is philosophically no different from saying “it’s an Aryan thing.” The moral context matters a great deal. But the excuse is identical. Similarly, rejecting the Enlightenment for “good” reasons is still a rejection of the Enlightenment. And any instrumental or pragmatic gains you get from rejecting the Enlightenment still amount to taking a sledgehammer to the soapbox you’re standing on. Without the standards of the Enlightenment, we are in a Nietzschean world where power decides important questions rather than reason. This is exactly how the left appears to want it. One last point about diversity. Because liberals have what Thomas Sowell calls an “unconstrained vision,” they assume everyone sees things through the same categorical prism. So once again, as with the left’s invention of social Darwinism, liberals assume their ideological opposites take the “bad” view to their good. If liberals assume blacks—or women, or gays—are inherently good, conservatives must think these same groups are inherently bad.

This is not to say that there are no racist conservatives. But at the philosophical level, liberalism is battling a straw man. This is why liberals must constantly assert that conservatives use code words— because there’s nothing obviously racist about conservatism per se. Indeed, the constant manipulation of the language to keep conservatives—and other non-liberals—on the defensive is a necessary tactic for liberal politics. The Washington, D.C., bureaucrat who was fired for using the word “niggardly” correctly in a sentence is a case in point. The ground must be constantly shifted to maintain a climate of grievance. Fascists famously ruled by terror. Political correctness isn’t literally terroristic, but it does govern through fear. No serious person can deny that the grievance politics of the American left keeps decent people in a constant state of fright—they are afraid to say the wrong word, utter the wrong thought, offend the wrong constituency. If we maintain our understanding of political conservatism as the heir of classical liberal individualism, it is almost impossible for a fair-minded person to call it racist. And yet, according to liberals, race neutrality is itself racist. It harkens back to the “social Darwinism” of the past, we are told, because it relegates minorities to a savage struggle for the survival of the fittest.

The notion that it is “racist” to oppose quotas is a perfect example of this kind of doublethink.

[Tuesday morning update]

She’s not a racist, she’s a racialist. I agree that she shouldn’t be “borked,” but she has to be soberly questioned on this sort of thing. Republicans probably can’t stop the appointment, but they can make it very unpopular, and something that people will remember in the voting booth a year and a half from now.

63 thoughts on “The Race Obsession”

  1. Serfdom was a form of slavery, especially in Russia.

    The landowner could transfer the serf without the land to another landowner while keeping the serf’s personal property and family, however the landowner had no right to kill the serf.

    Serfdom in Russia was abolished in 1861.


  2. Today, despite decades of legal equality, job applicants with black-sounding names are less likely to be called for an interview than applicants with white-sounding names and identical resumes.

    So the answer to this is for applicants that are hispanic or white should be passed over? You do realize, Jim, this is the essence of what troubles many over Sotomayor’s Ricci decision. Apparently you support continuing this practice of racial discrimination. At what age will you be when you decide to stop this racial bias of yours and accept legal equality?

  3. “Ricci is a case where she ignored the empathy appeal to follow the law.”

    What a howler!

  4. Please answer the question I posed.

    My answer is yes.

    BTW, this “test” you linked to reveals that I subconsciously assign positive stereotypes to Judaism. And yes, I am a Celtic / Acadian male. You got a problem with that?


    We’re acting like the solution to racial discrimination is not more racial discrimination.

    Which is a self-serving position for the beneficiaries of centuries of such discrimination, and which foolishly equates two very different things: discrimination used by a powerful majority to oppress vulnerable minorities, and discrimination used by the majority to counteract societal prejudices that continue to hold back vulnerable minorities.

    In Ricci Sotomayor ruled that it’s okay for employer promotion policy to discriminate against Hispanics (and whites) in favor of blacks.

    No, in Ricci Sotomayor noted that the Civil Rights Act requires that tests used for promotions that adversely affect minorities can not be used, and that the New Haven test was an obvious example. She followed the law as written. The “empathy” plea was made by the learning disabled white plaintiff who hired tutors and worked mightily to pass the test.

    At what age will you be when you decide to stop this racial bias of yours and accept legal equality?

    When minorities and women get jobs, income, housing, educations, etc. commensurate with their numbers and abilities.

  5. Jim,

    Women already do get jobs commensurate with their numbers, abilities and desires. Men do a lot of jobs women don’t want. That includes CEO. Few men, and even fewer women want to sacrifice the rest of their lives to get a shot at CEO. Women are already well over half the college graduates in this country.

    I think minorities also get jobs commensurate with their numbers and abilities as educated within their culture. We really need to work on the educational and cultural influence on the job market. Please note that citing cultural influences is not blaming the victim. The victim doesn’t get to choose his culture, either. The Scotch-Irish white southern culture contributes to Southern poverty, after all.

    I’m not sure how well affirmative action helps to address these issues. There is some evidence that affirmative action in law school admissions increases drop out rates and bar exam failures. This may be an intractible problem with no satisfactory solution, whether the solution is statist, libertarian or a combination, kind of like adding vibration dampeners to a five segment solid booster. At the same time, Jim, I would like some smart cross-over liberal, like Bill Clinton, or some smart cross-over conservative, like the late Jack Kemp, to come up with a market based way to encourage better employment for minorities. We need some way to encourage all those under achieving ethnic group to act more like the over achieving Asians and Jews.


  6. “No, in Ricci Sotomayor noted that the Civil Rights Act requires that tests used for promotions that adversely affect minorities can not be used, and that the New Haven test was an obvious example.”

    No, it wasn’t. The test was written by a firm specializing in race neutral tests. When a race-baiting minister, Boise Kimber, threatened the civil service board, they threw out the results. It’s obvious you believe in outcome equality not opportunity equality. Given that belief, you’ll never be satisfied and from what Sotomayor has said, neither will she.

  7. Serfdom in Russia was abolished in 1861.

    It made a comeback in 1917. The Communist “dictatorship of the proletariat” is very much a modern form of serfdom.Serfs did> have the right to accumulate wealth, however.

  8. No, it wasn’t. The test was written by a firm specializing in race neutral tests.

    The law doesn’t say that if the test was written in a race neutral way, it’s okay. The law says that if no blacks pass the test, that is considered prima facie evidence of bias, and the test is thrown out. Why would the law be written that way? Because for decades cities used supposedly race-neutral tests to exclude minorities. So cities now bear the burden of proof: they have to show not only that minorities can pass their tests, but that they do. “Outcome equality” may not be pretty, but in practice it was the only way to integrate police forces, fire departments, etc.

    And if you have a problem with the Civil Rights law talk to Congress — Sotomayor was just following the law that Congress wrote.

  9. So I go to New Hampshire, with its 95% white population. 10 people take a test 9 white, 1 black (which is over representing in New Hampshire). The pass rate for this exam is 60%. 3 white and the 1 black person fail, and 6 white people pass.

    According to Jim that is prima facie evidence of racial bias.

    One could do this with marbles being pulled from a bag and 45% of the time the test would be evidence of racial bias. If this is how Judge Sotomayor considers law, then she definitely uses empathy instead of logic.

  10. “The law says that if no blacks pass the test, that is considered prima facie evidence of bias, and the test is thrown out.”

    It doesn’t say that either. It says you can’t discriminate. If the testing was found to be race neutral, there would be no discrimination. That was not determined at trial. The assumption and interpretation is that any time a minority doesn’t pass, it is discrimination. That’s not following the law, that’s identity politics. One Hispanic did pass the test and was not promoted either. Do you think he’s hap about this act of discrimination against him?

  11. I know this isn’t the Volokh Conspiracy, but does anybody here know the legal precedent for using statistical sampling to determine guilt or innocence regarding a tort? The notion that a fair test cannot possibly produce statistical outliers is idiotic.

Comments are closed.