13 July 2009

So Much For A "Post-Racial" Society

Today the Senate begins a week of confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. One could argue the discussion about Judge Sotomayor has broken down ideological or possibly even partisan lines, but there's one facet to the discussion that is perfectly clear - when it comes to this nomination and confirmation process, we are absolutely and completely obsessed with the issue of race.

Here is a representation of the discussion about Judge Sotomayor in blogs, per Blogpulse:

And here is the subset of those discussions that mention race:

So how many blog posts that mention Judge Sotomayor also mention that she's a "Latina" or "Hispanic?"

That would be all of them. Yes, ALL of them.

A very small fraction of the cases that go before the Supreme Court have anything to do with race at all. A very small fraction of the 380+ opinions that Judge Sotomayor has written have anything to do with race at all. In fact, the only reason I had heard of her at all was her ruling that ended the baseball strike back in 1995. (I'm a bit of a baseball nut.)

Yet virtually every discussion about Judge Sotomayor has mentioned race. Granted, some of those posts have simply said she'd be the first Latina on the Supreme Court, but the overwhelming majority of those posts also have more references to race. And of course, Senate Republicans have unquestionably focused on race leading up to the hearings - from former Speaker Gingrich's now-infamous tweet to the invitation of a white Connecticut firefighter to testify against her because she wrote an opinion against his side in a labor case - a decision that the Supreme Court overturned by a 5-4 vote.

I haven't done any analysis of the mainstream coverage of Judge Sotomayor, but I suspect the composition is similar.

I think the online discussion shows that we're far more obsessed about race issues than Judge Sotomayor ever has been. And I see no evidence whatsoever of the "post-racial society" that's been bubbled about by some in the punditocracy.

No comments: