Example: [Collected via e-mail, June 2009]
"The time has come to end white male oppression by castrating every white male until they are no longer dominant in Western culture. That means forcible removal of their testicles. I realize the brutality of my comment, and I don't know how to say it more clearly"
— Judge Sonya Sotomayor, 2004
Origins: Perhaps no words are more closely scrutinized in the modern era than those of nominees to the
Judge Sonia Sotomayor, tapped by President Obama in May 2009 as a potential replacement for the retiring Justice David Souter, is no exception to this process. In particular, her "wise Latina woman" remarks have drawn the lion's share of scrutiny:
In her speeches, she often discussed her "Latina soul" and explained how even the traditional dishes of her Puerto Rican family shaped her views.
And she often said that she hoped those experiences would help her reach better judicial conclusions than someone without such a varied background might reach.
The line was almost identical every time:
"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion."
That sentence, or a similar one, has appeared in speeches Sotomayor delivered in 1994, 1999, 2002, 2004 and 2001. In that speech, she included the phrase "than a white male who hasn't lived that life" at the end, which sparked cries of racism from some Republicans.
But after her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court in late May , those views have come under sharp attack from critics who worry that her racial politics are ill-suited for the nation's highest court.
At the heart of the debate is how race and ethnicity should be considered in public life. While Sotomayor has been criticized for her insistence on the importance of
"Things were taken out of context to sensationalize," said Edith Castillo, 35, of Detroit, who supports Sotomayor. "People shouldn't just make an opinion based on a sound bite, but really know who she is as an individual."
Others, though, have issues with Sotomayor's repeated declarations of pride in her background, including remarks about being a "wise Latina." To them, her views go against the idea of treating people as individuals, rather than as members of ethnic and racial groups.
"Why are the experiences of a Latina woman rich while those of a white man are not?" Thomas Krannawitter, a professor at Hillsdale College, wrote in an essay that ran on conservative Web sites.
In the speech delivered to the San Juan chapter of NOW, Sotomayor said, "I want to be perfectly clear about this next comment so that there is no mistaking my words to mean something other than what they plainly say: the time has come to end white male oppression by castrating every white male until they are no longer dominant in Western culture. That means forcible removal of their testicles. I realize the brutality of my comment, and I don’t know how to say it more clearly."
It was revealed that Sotomayor used precisely the same language in seven other speeches.
Last updated: 13 July 2009
Bash, Dana and Emily Sherman. "Sotomayor's 'Wise Latina' Comment a Staple of Her Speeches." CNN. 8 June 2009. Bendavid, Naftali. "Sotomayor's Defense on 'Wise Latina' Comment Takes Shape." The Wall Street Journal. 11 July 2009 (p. A3). Warikoo, Niraj. "Clashing Ideas Over Race, Identity to Play Out with Sotomayor." Detroit Free Press. 12 July 2009.