Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sotamayor backs down from controversial comments


President Obama selected Sonia Sotamayor to be a Supreme Court judge she’s been under scrutiny for comments she made regarding ones life experience. In a speech delivered at the UC Berkeley School of Law she suggested that a judges' life experiences and ethnic backgrounds play a role in their decision making Sotamayor stated, "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."

Sotamayor has been backing off her statements as of late: she’s been watering her words down to make sure she gets what she wants. I wouldn’t have done that. Isn’t possible to get yours and stand in the light of truth? I wouldn’t back down. Oh well, I guess that’s just me.

Is there credence to Sotmayor’s assertion? I think there is. In the words of Goethe, "I am a part of all that I've met." Everyone’s life experience plays a part in their decision-making.

Judges rule and set precedents based on the law. Well, that’s what they should do. The law affects everyone who is under the jurisdiction of America. With regard to race it’s sometimes the preeminent factor in a case. Ones life experience surely comes into play. If one has an all white jury and judge and you are an African American facing a stiff sentence chances are you’ll get sailed up the river rather quickly. If you have a diverse jury pool and a minority as a judge that African American facing that stiff sentence may not be as severe or could be averted all together.

In “Trial of the Century” in 1994 if O.J. Simpson didn’t have Lance Itto on the stand, money and a diverse jury he’d been sailed up the river for life. When Simpson was recently convicted for trying to retrieve his property stolen from him in Nevada he faced an all white jury and white female judge: now he sits in jail. So in essence, Simpson averted prison by being found not guilty for killing two people yet he sits in jail in Nevada for trying to retrieve memorabilia stolen from him?

Diversity tends to breed variety, understanding and sympathy: this in turns lead to a more objective verdict being rendered. With respect to race it is one of the hardest things to prove in court. Those who judge race-based cases by and large are white males. In many cases the juries are as well. While the law may state one thing what others think and how the evidence is presented is another.

Bottom line: someone who is involved in a race-based case would be better served with someone who has experience that's varied as opposed to someone that’s not diverse in their thinking. A white male who hasn't been around many African Americans and other races is left to rely on stereotypical perceptions. They are left with what they see on television, read in the newspapers, and see in the movies. Often the depictions of African Americans aren’t accurate because they are largely disseminated through the eyes of whites. The same thing can be said for many of the judges and jury-pools in the court system.

Everyone is afraid to talk about race, especially our president. Some suggest talking about race will only stir things up and keep something alive that people don't want to talk about. Those who adopt the latter stance are typically from an ill-informed of whites who aren't afflicted by racism. Then you have those who are victimized by racism and want the mainstream to know the extent of its existence and how social issues still abound.

What do I think about all of this?

Isn't the essence of problem-solving remedying the problem? When one goes to the doctor because they have an ailment the doctor assesses the problem by detecting the cause. Once the cause is detected the doctor prescribes a remedy to rid the patient of the ailment. But in order for any of the latter to manifest the doctor and patient must have dialogue.

Cut the cards as you wish to deal with issues and any kind, particularly with respect to racism dialogue is needed. It won't come from the oval office for sure so it must spawn from those who seek to truly make a difference.

At the end of the day I’m not Sotamayor. I guess I have to live my truth just like Sotamayor has to live hers. But if I were Sotamayor I’d stick to my guns and not back off the comments she made in 2001. I’d tell the truth and set others free instead of acquiescing to make sure I’d get a job.

Oh well, I guess that’s just me.

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