The Frank Ricci Affirmative Action case has become something of a cause celebre for old white guys in Washington, because it proves what they already knew: Life is stacked against them. They can't get a break.  Ricci was denied a promotion because of an archaic affirmative action law that throws out the test if only white takers pass. This, columnists like Richard Cohen believe, is something Obama should really consider when picking the next Supreme Court Justice:

Liberalism, a movement in which I hold a conditional membership, would be wise to get wise to what has happened. Blatant affirmative action always entailed a disturbing and ex post facto changing of the rules -- oops, you're white. Sorry, not what we wanted. As a consequence, it was not racists who were punished but all whites. There is no need to cling to such a remedy anymore. There is, though, every need to retain and strengthen anti-discrimination laws, especially in areas such as fire departments, where racial discrimination was once endemic. Sufficient progress has been made to revert to treating individuals as individuals. After all, it is not some amorphous entity called "whites" who will suffer: It is un-lieutenant Ricci.

Affirmative action was installed as a corrective against bigotry, a way to ensure qualified people were not passed over because of arbitrary conditions of their race or gender -- not as a "punishment" for whites, although it's not surprising to me that Cohen sees it that way. The fact that white women have been the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action goes unmentioned because it's harder to make the case that "white people" have been hurt, because in the end, "white people" have benefited more than anyone else. "There's no need to cling to such a remedy anymore," says Cohen, who shares the WaPo op-ed page with a single black columnist.

The reaction to Sonia Sotomayor makes the perfect case for why we still need affirmative action. She's been a federal judge since the early 1990s, she served as an ADA in Manhattan, she's worked in private practice. On paper, she's qualified, but yesterday Jeffrey Rosen, admittedly knowing next to nothing about her, wrote that the summa cum laude from Yale Law School Princeton might not be "that smart." The folks at National Review got the signal. "So she's dumb and obnoxious. Got it," wrote Mark Hemingway. Responded John Derbyshire, "Judge Sotomayor may indeed be dumb and obnoxious; but she's also female and Hispanic and those are the things that count nowadays." This from someone who believes that social statistics prove that whites as a group are smarter than say, black people. Mark Krikorian concluded that "I'm sure Mark H. is right about Sotomayor's being dumb and obnoxious, just as Derb is right about her being female and Hispanic is all the matters," but that "an Hispanic Supreme Court justice is an almost mandatory consolation prize for the amnesty folks."

In short, everyone agrees that Sotomayor is an idiot, based on an anonymous quote solicited by Rosen, who admits that he hasn't "read enough of Sonia Sotomayor’s opinions to have a confident sense of them," and that he hasn't "talked to enough of Sonia Sotomayor’s detractors and supporters to get a fully balanced picture of her strengths."

This is exactly what affirmative action is meant to correct: People coming to the arbitrary conclusion that someone is "an idiot" despite all evidence to the contrary, except if you consider not being a white man evidence. Sotomayor's detractors see themselves as Frank Riccis, white men whose greatness isn't recognized because we're too busy giving brown people who can't tie their shoes certificates of achievement. But the truth is that in life and in employment, discrimination rarely manifests itself the way it did against Ricci, as something as easy to quantify as an unfair test. It's far more insidious -- a rumor, a feeling, a notion that the person standing in front of you who doesn't look like you is just "dumb and obnoxious." So you throw their resume in the "no" pile because you don't like their name, you seat them in the back of the class, you promote another person. You just can't really explain why. It's... just a feeling.

Via Glenn Greenwald

-- A. Serwer


First of all anyone who seeks to be a true leader faces the prejudice that they do no have any idea to share that the audience is not already aware of. This is what it means to be a true leader.

It's true that wording a common sentiment clearly can take a higher level of understanding than just having that sentiment in the back of your mind, but in general people who merely speak common sentiments are not leaders. Minorities often select such people to be their champions, whereas other groups may select people who teach them things they were completely unaware of.

From the perspective of such true leaders of thought and action, a minority champion touting a life of difficulties common to all minorities looks ridiculous. How does this qualify you to be a leader? What principals did you learn that are not known to other leaders? What can you teach us that we did not already know?

This form of resistance is not common prejudice or bias, to which a person like Sotomayor would likely not be subject to after a small amount of interaction. The people who judge her so probably feel the same about the majority of white males. However, the majority of white males do not become Supreme Court Justices.

This is not to say that such people are not willing to give Sotomayor a chance, but they already skeptical of any potential leader of any kind for the aforementioned reasons. Throw affirmative action on top of that as a reason why someone got their "paper qualifications" and position, and of course that skepticism is going to be more intense.

Then decisions and reasoning made by this person is going to be heavily scrutinized. I am keenly familiar with at least one incorrect claim made by Sotomayer where she says that the second amendment was not intended to allow private ownership of weapons. In federalist paper 46, James Madison the primary author of the bill of rights, argued that a federal army would have a hard time taking over the country because they could not compete with an armed general populace self organized into a militia.

At best it seems that your argument could be valid in that she might be unfairly judged in terms of the ratio of mistakes made to new valid ideas presented as compared with other people in the positions she has held. This is evidence for abolishing affirmative action however, not perpetuating it. Without Affirmative Action, a minority supreme court justice would be seen as someone MORE likely to be capable as opposed to less.

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