Debunking the Latina-Supremacist Charge

I have a guest post up over at one of Slate's companion blogs, explaining why Sotomayor's comment about "wise Latinas" was not only not racist, but also almost undeniably true. Here's a taste:

[C]onsidered in the context the rest of her speech, it is clear that Sotomayor merely meant that appointing a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences to the bench would (on average) do more to improve judicial decision-making than appointing a(nother) comparably wise white male judge. Understood in this way, the comment is benign and, more importantly, almost certainly true.

Crucial to understanding Judge Sotomayors argument is the way in which decisions are made in appellate courts. Both the court on which she sits and the court to which she aspires decide cases collectively. This context is crucial because a large body of social science evidence confirms Judge Sotomayors contention that ensuring that a group includes people with a variety of viewpoints and life experiences increases the reliability of the groups decision-making process. Diverse groups are more likely to reach the right conclusion because the different members of the group complement each others blind-spots and reduce the likelihood that commonly held, but incorrect, assumptions will carry the day.

Eduardo M. Peñalver is the Allan R. Tessler Dean of the Cornell Law School. The views expressed in the piece are his own, and should not be attributed to Cornell University or Cornell Law School.

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