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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Is Sotomayor a Beneficiary of Racism and American Tradition?

The comments below are based on this video...

As usual, Pat Buchanan does a poor job of making his point here.

In the above video, Maddow makes a good point that the vast majority of Supreme Court justices have been white males. That result means something is wrong. Buchanan also makes a good point in noting that it is wrong to discriminate against anybody based on race, regardless of whether they are white or otherwise.

What the two of them miss is a distinction between results and process.

Maddow’s point reminds us that, for centuries, the process was wrong because it was discriminatory in favor white males. Hence, the results were an all white male Supreme Court for two centuries. However, Buchanan’s point reminds us that two wrongs do not make a right – you don’t replace one discriminatory process with another simply to achieve a desired result. Maddow, in keeping with liberal affirmative action orthodoxy, seems to suggest that we fix the result, but not the process.

Former slave Fredrick Douglas famously said in the 1860’s, “Everybody has asked the question, and they learned to ask it early of the abolitionists, ‘What shall we do with the Negro?’ I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us...If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature's plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs... If you will only untie his hands, and give him a chance, I think he will live. He will work as readily for himself as the white man.”

The President and Congress should address the process of fixing judicial selection. Doing so would produce a better result. If the process were appropriate, we would have a diverse bench. However, the ideal is to have a perfect process – not a certain race-based result.

Maddow asked if Buchanan thought it was a good thing that we will have a Hispanic Supreme Court justice. His answer should have been that the result is not the issue, the process is. Since she came about through a discriminatory process, the answer is that her appointment is not a good thing. However, the result that Maddow is asking about, is simply is a reflection of the fact that we Americans are at least trying, and this is a good thing – despite that we continue to get the process wrong.

When President George Washington selected the first Supreme Court, he selected them based on their ideology rather than qualifications. Some were qualified, some were not. It is nothing new that President Obama would now select a minimally qualified jurist for the Court for purely political reasons. In fact, in this respect, Sotomayor’s appointment is in keeping with a long American tradition.

Sotomayor’s statements and decision in the Ricci case shows that she agrees with Obama, Maddow and others, that the results are all that matter. They believe that if the process produces a bad result, you address the result and ignore the process.

In the Ricci case, it was not alleged that there was something wrong with the process; merely that the results alone justified affirmative action appointments to the Fire Department. It is explicitly forbidden to take race into consideration in hiring under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The idea that our society should “remedy” past discrimination by giving bonus points to certain races today is offensive as it is counterproductive. All people should be judged solely by two things: their individual merit and character. It is fair to take disadvantaged background into consideration in assessing these two factors. Race might play a role in this in certain contexts. However, race alone demonstrates neither. Those who think race alone is enough are oversimplifying a complex issue.

Click here to read why I believe Sotomayor should not be confirmed.

1 comment:

L. E. McConnell said...

What part of the process do you believe should be improved? Is it a matter of constitutional procedure? Political tradition? Is it a deeper social process which keeps some groups down?

I agree with you, but I struggle to find the systematic change it would appear is necessary. The consequences of past racial attitudes will take time to work themselves out, and people are anxious.