During this entire [Sotomayor] debate, we are hearing endlessly about the importance of merit and why merit must never be outweighed by identity considerations. All right. We are reminded again and again of the hope that everyone will be judged by character and not by race. That sounds reasonable. So why is it that Sotomayor’s critics seem to be going out of their way to ignore her merits and her achievements and have been fixating on questions of identity and identity politics to the exclusion of almost everything else? Perhaps deep within the cocoon, articles that earnestly claim that Limbaugh and Martin Luther King are fighting the same fight seem credible, but what everyone else sees is little more than a collective panic that an Hispanic has been appointed to the Supreme Court. Her critics have been railing against her allegedly faulty judgment, but they have managed to make their arguments so poorly that it is the soundness of their judgment that most people are bound to question.
No less remarkable are the descriptions her critics offer about her. According to Shelby Steele, who writes on almost nothing except for subjects related to race, she is “race-obsessed.” Andrew chimes in and refers, apparently without any irony, to the “constant, oppressive consciousness of her identity” and goes on to say that “the harping on it so aggressively so often does strike me as a classic mode of victimology deeply entrenched in her generation.” What evidence do we have that her consciousness of her identity is either constant or oppressive, or for that matter where is the evidence that she “harps on it” aggressively or otherwise? She talks about it, she refers to it, she takes pride in it, she thinks that it matters–this is not obsession or aggression.