Republicans’ outrage, both real and feigned, at Sotomayor’s musings about how her identity as a “wise Latina” might affect her judicial decisions is based on a flawed assumption: that whiteness and maleness are not themselves facets of a distinct identity. Being white and male is seen instead as a neutral condition, the natural order of things. Any “identity” — black, brown, female, gay, whatever — has to be judged against this supposedly “objective” standard.
Eugene Robinson
Washington Post, July 14, 2009

Yesterday it was opening statements from the Senate Committee ending with Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s statement — part of the process and protocol for confirming a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. I always find these hearings interesting. An opportunity to catch up on legal matters. It’s always a teaching moment.

Today it’s the questions. The Judge has wisely chosen to wear a red jacket – unafraid to be seen and heard. Clarity. Let’s look at this from an identity perspective. Could a man get away with wearing a red jacket at his confirmation hearing? What would it communicate? Yesterday was blue – listening color. The Judge is prepared. She recognizes the power and the high stakes involved in each and ever word she speaks before the committee. This cannot be treated as a slam dunk no matter what the pundits or how many votes she has in her favor.

Senator Sessions (R-AL) cuts to the chase with talking points from the Republican party’s playbook “impartiality,” “identity,” and “affirmative action,” “quotas.” The party has been really bad on identity issues focusing more on an the ideal monolithic poltiical party for some and a few invited guests under the tent of one collective thought. The “big tent” just doesn’t seem to be in the party’s vocabulary or practice right now. Now only is it a losing game plan, but it isn’t even a good game.

It’ll be interesting to see where these identity themes lead during the hearing especially when the witnesses testify including firefighter Frank Ricci one of the plaintiffs in the New Haven, CT “reverse discrimination” case. I add the quotes because I think reverse discrimination is an oxymoron – either it is discrimination or it isn’t. Call it “tit for tat”? And apparently the CT firefighters case isn’t Ricci’s first discrimination complaint. [A complete list of witnesses is available on Politico.] I would say, Ricci’s one of the star witnesses. What are the odds he will appear in uniform?

Something about the term “reverse discrimination” that pushes buttons. I’m sure there’s a political angle to the term that goes back to the issues of identity. It rallies a certain political base and demographic that is shrinking in the 21st century, or as Frank Rich described in his op-ed on the quitting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, “a constituency that feels disenfranchised — by the powerful and the well-educated who gamed the housing bubble, by a news media it keeps being told is hateful, by the immigrants who have taken some of their jobs, by the African-American who has ended a white monopoly on the White House.”

Senator Kohl (D- WI) comes in with the standard lead-in to Roe v. Wade – “privacy.” Yesterday, Norma McCorvey, otherwise known as Jane Roe, was removed from the hearing room along with several other anti-choice protestors. McCorvey, now 61, has gone to the other side of her experience and now speaks out against abortion. She switched in 1995 apparently after befriending an Operation Rescue workers who set up shop next door to where she worked.

Nevertheless, these confirmation sessions should be very interesting on these and other topics including the 2nd Amendment – also an identity issue. This is a cultural and identity moment for everyone in this room whether they recognize or not. Identity can be an opening and a teaching moment. I agree with the Judge, to not recognize is a sure way to make the kinds of decisions that seem to be of grave concern to Sessions and his colleagues. Live coverage is available here ( or click on the photo.