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Key Excerpt, Witness Testimony: Chavez on Identity Politics

CHAIRMAN OF THE CENTER FOR EQUAL OPPORTUNITY LINDA CHAVEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.

I testify today not as a wise Latina woman but an American who believes that skin color and national origin should not determine who gets a job, a promotion or a public contract or who gets into college or receives a fellowship.

My message today is straightforward. Mr. Chairman, do not vote to confirm this nominee. I say this with some regret, because I believe Judge Sotomayor's personal story is an inspiring one, which proves that this is truly a land of opportunity, where circumstances of birth and class do not determine whether you can succeeded.

Unfortunately, based on her statements both on and off the bench, I do not believe Judge Sotomayor shares that view. It is clear from her record that she has drunk deep from the well of identity politics.

I know a lot about that well, and I can tell you that it is dark and poisonous. It is, in my view, impossible to be a fair judge and also believe that one's race, ethnicity and sex should determine how someone will rule as a judge.

Despite her assurances to this committee over the last few days that her "wise Latina woman" statement was simply a, quote, "rhetorical flourish fell flat," nothing could be further from the truth.

All of us in public life have, at one time or another, misspoken. But Judge Sotomayor's words weren't uttered off the cuff. They were carefully crafted, repeated, not just once or twice, but at least seven times over several years.

As others have pointed out, if Judge Sotomayor were a white man who suggested that whites or males made better judges, again, to use Judge Sotomayor's words, quote, "Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences," end quote, "we would not be having this discussion. Because the nominee would have been forced to withdraw once those words became public."

But, of course, Judge Sotomayor's offensive words are just a reflection of her much greater body of work as an ethnic activist and judge.

Identity politics is at the core of who this woman is. And let me be clear here. I'm not talking about the understandable pride in one's ancestry or ethnic roots, which is both common and natural in a country as diverse and pluralistic as ours.

Read the full remarks of Chavez here.

By Washington Post editors  |  July 16, 2009; 4:35 PM ET
Categories:  Hearings , Supreme Court , Topics: Identity Politics  
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