In today’s New York Times, columnist David Brooks has a novel theory of why Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s Latina identity has worked its way into Sotomayor’s speeches, if not her judicial decisions: Blame it on the 1970’s.

No, seriously. According to Brooks, Sotomayor had bad luck in being born in 1954, because that meant that she went to college and law school in the 1970’s:

Sonia Sotomayor had bad timing. If she’d entered college in the late-1950s or early-1960s, she would have been surrounded by an ethos that encouraged smart young ethnic kids to assimilate. If she’d entered Princeton and Yale in the 1980s, her ethnicity and gender would have been mildly interesting traits among the many she might possibly possess.

But she happened to attend Princeton and then Yale Law School in the 1970s. These were the days when what we now call multiculturalism was just coming into its own. These were the days when the whole race, class and gender academic-industrial complex seemed fresh, exciting and just.

There was no way she was going to get out of that unscarred.

So every person of Latin-American descent who attended college in the 1970’s should express views similar to Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” speeches. I don’t know how you poll that, but I find it hard to believe that such is the case.

One can agree or disagree with Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” statements, or believe that the statements are meaningless. But to consider Sotomayor merely a product of the 1970’s multiculturalism movement is one of the ultimate insults to her intelligence.

The multicultural movement still is going strong. Unlike true respect for individuals without regard to skin color or ethnicity, the multicultural movement only has been fresh and exciting to those who choose group intellectual and political identities over individual choice and determination. Sotomayor, as was everyone else in the past half-century, was free to accept or reject identity politics and theory.

Brooks didn’t mean to insult Sotomayor. He clearly thought he was cutting her a break by portraying her as a victim of circumstance. But in so doing, Brooks merely proved that he also is a victim of multicultural dogma, because he categorizes Sotomayor intellectually based on her ethnicity.

I give Sotomayor much more credit. She is not a victim of bad timing, but someone who after much reflection meant what she said, and said what she meant. The significance or not of what she meant and said is a subject of fair examination and debate now that she is a nominee for a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.

But palming off Sotomayor’s comments as being a reflection of the 1970’s is not fair to the judicial confirmation process, to Sotomayor, or to the 1970’s.

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Sotomayor’s Damned Statistics

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