Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hey, Hispanic Chick Lady!

"Hey, Hispanic chick lady! You're empathetic ... you're in!" That's how Glenn Beck reacted to Sonia Sotomayor's selection as the nominee to the Supreme Court. I like that so much, because it shows clearly what Beck thinks about us women as human beings.

What else should I say at this point, not having done my homework* on Sotomayor's opinions? It's almost always like this: I surf the web, read various news items, and my inner alarm system goes 'ping' on some, meaning that I could say something important about that particular topic, or it goes 'brrp', meaning that I could write funny on that topic, and then it jams on an item of news which everybody is talking about and about which I neither have anything to say nor any interesting way to not say it. If you get my meaning.

In any case, I'm glad that Obama nominated a woman (I didn't really want to stand outside White House, protesting, for the next four years), and a Hispanic woman is certainly a good thing, too, given the percentage of Hispanics in this country. My very uneducated impression is that Sotomayor is not terribly lefty, but then neither is Obama.

But that Beck comment still interests me, because of an earlier article I read about the many ways diversity could be viewed for the Supreme Court. It's certainly true that Catholics are vastly overrepresented on the Court now, when compared to their population percentage. But then men are even more overrepresented, so there ya go.

Or don't go, if diversity is interpreted in a very silly way, as that article partly did (though mostly it's quite good). Suppose that instead of looking at the composition of the Court we look at only recent nominations! Then, of course, we get a lot more women in a much smaller pool! And lots of population groups which were never nominated at all!

What's wrong about all this is exactly what's wrong about the idea of 'diversity', as if one could tug a little there, add a little there, and then end up with some meaningfully diverse Supreme Court, without having any idea about why we are doing this in the first place.

It's not some basic idea of wanting to have interesting variations on the bench that we should be after, and looking at the pool of recent nominations is a meaningless base. A better base would be all the people who have ever sat on the bench, though really the only practically important base is the current members of the Court. And the reason why I, at least, look at that diversity thing is because the Court should reflect the country and the percentages of various groups within that country.

Unless there are good reasons** for not following that rule, we should expect the Supreme Court to have about equal numbers of men and women, and the ethnic, racial and religious percentages on the bench should roughly*** reflect the percentages of those groups in the general population.
*I really should have tried to find out whether she's pro-choice or not. Mea culpa and all that.
**I'm thinking here of a purely theoretical situation where a religion, say, banned its members from getting a training in law, but similar arguments have been used when a group (er, women) just didn't have enough trained legal people to pick from.
***Very roughly for some of the smallest minorities, unless we make the Court much bigger.