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July 14th, 2009
12:27 PM ET

Commentary: What the 'wise Latina' remark meant

Editor's note: Laura Gómez is professor of law and American studies at the University of New Mexico. Gómez, who has a Ph.D. in sociology and a law degree from Stanford University, is the author of "Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race."

Laura Gómez says Sonia Sotomayor's 'wise Latina' comment has been taken out of context.

Laura Gómez says Sonia Sotomayor's 'wise Latina' comment has been taken out of context.

By Laura E. Gómez
Special to CNN

(CNN) - It is likely that Judge Sotomayor will face some questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week about her 2001 "wise Latina" remark.

In a speech at a Berkeley conference on Hispanic judges, Sotomayor said, "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."

Her comment has been lampooned on the cover of the National Review, where cartoonists apparently could not quite fathom a wise Latina judge, choosing to portray Sotomayor as a Buddha with Asian features. It has caused Rush Limbaugh and others to label her a "racist," and it has caused even liberals to bristle.

I was a speaker at the conference Sotomayor's speech kicked off, and I would like to put her comment in context.

Keep reading this story »

Related: Sotomayor: 'Wise Latina' remark a bad choice


Filed under: Commentary • Supreme Court
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Dan

    Funny, if she had said that she hoped a wise white male would reach a better conclusion than a Latina woman she would have a throng of Hispanic people and liberals outside her door armed with torches and pitchforks.

    Got to love double standards, right?

    July 15, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  2. Charles

    It is politically correct for this "wise Latina woman" to make irresponsible and stupid remarks but it was not correct for Judge Bork to be a Christian and advocate for the unborn. The Republicans need to hammer this woman into the ground over her 2nd amendment remarks, her inconsistent testimony, and her willingness to use international law in the American justice system. None of which can be rationalized by her defenders.

    July 15, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  3. Otto

    Seems the only thing wrong with her comment is that it is too polite. She really means a wise Latina is better than a dumb white male. Tough too say without offense. She is only trying to say that a wise person would be preferable to an idiot with an overtone claiming diversity in life experiences adds to wisdom. All of which is true but difficult to convey in a single PC sentence. Her remark is advocating wisdom, not race although it did come out a bit awkwardly. The phrasing of her statement and the racial comparison leads one to believe that she thinks a Latina's experiences make them wiser than their white male counterparts. This is not necessarily true but again I believe she meant a wise person of color is better than a white person who is not as wise. So we are left with a controversial remark. I say defer to her 17 year record and make the decision off of that.

    July 15, 2009 at 12:01 pm |
  4. TeamDemo

    The Republican ship is sinking (bloop-bloop-bloop), and it's party is struggling to stay afloat. It's comical to watch.

    It's obvious what Sotomayor meant and in the context of the audience she was speaking to it was completely appropriate, even inspiring. The media loves to blow things out of proportion.

    She's an awesome, credible person who will make an amazing Supreme Court judge. Go Sotomayor!

    July 15, 2009 at 11:57 am |
  5. Mojotooth

    A wise Latina with the life experiences of Judge Sotomayor does have an advantage in making a judgement in the absent of precedences . People have to realize that the road a Latina girl in the projects of the Bronx travels to Ivy league & Supreme court nominee is an experience that is unmatched by most white males. Her statement is simply, true.

    July 15, 2009 at 7:17 am |
  6. Mojotooth

    A wise Latina with the life wide experiences of Judge Sotomayor does have an advantage in making a judgement in the absent of precedences . People have to realize that the road a Latina girl in the projects of the Bronx travels to Ivy league & Supreme court nominee is an experience that is unmatched by most white males today.

    July 15, 2009 at 7:14 am |
  7. Ralph Ward

    My question to you is does cultural diversity, add value to your news program.

    July 15, 2009 at 7:03 am |
  8. Vernon

    Either Sotomayor was lying yesterday or she was lying the half dozen times she said it before – can't have it both ways. I contend yesterday was a confirmation conversion – say anything to get confirmed even if you don't believe it in your heart.

    July 15, 2009 at 6:13 am |
  9. Larry

    Anyone with half a brain knew what she meant. This has just been fodder for the crumbling Republican party.

    Republicans don't have much to hang onto anymore.

    July 14, 2009 at 4:23 pm |