Sotomayor: as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.
Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.
Hernandez: There are all sorts of ways of being wise. Oliver Wendell Holmes said many wise things about the law, but as Sotomayor mentioned, he was part of those Justices who consistently voted against any claims of gender discrimination for decades and decades. It could be a wise Latina with a richness of experience, or a wise woman, or a wise Bosnian that may have more sense about things than your typical White American Male. No I am not a man hater, not at all (I am actually married to a white male - and I like him a lot). But I am sure that the U.S. and many other Western countries have provided a societal framework that keeps white males from learning about the realities of the world. There are many unconscious privileges some people have that we are often not aware of.
I could say that as a Latina professor I have experiences that white male professors don't have. But I can also say that I was a social worker and psychotherapist for over fifteen years before I began my PhD studies in Cultural Anthropology. I had a significant amount of mental health training, including that of the psychoanalytic study of groups. I was also trained as a photographer. So which experience makes me a better professor? Is it being Latina? Is it being a photographer (who certainly see the world in a unique way)? Is it being a psychotherapist (some people say that could be a hindrance)?
Surely, hearing Agustin Lara and eating rice, beans and flour tortillas gave me a unique background and perspective while I was reading European social theorists. Growing up in a Jim Crow town certainly helped me understand Faulkner. Having brown skin made me stand out among the blonde kids at school, and sometimes their comments did hurt me (this did not keep me from making friends with some of them). But now I understand a more realistic map of the world. Most of the world is brown (or olive skinned) like me. Many people that are my shade of brown are Jewish, highly educated, and well read. I fit in most anywhere.
If I had been born Jane Smith in Houston, Texas, and had blue eyes and blond hair, my life wouldn't nearly as interesting. I can say the same for Judge Sotomayor.
These comments are not necessarily about prejudice, they are about differences.