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Supreme Court Pick Brings Back Affirmative Action Debate

“Affirmative action standards are a bad way to pick one of the nine most influential jurists in the US."

Such is the reaction of affirmative-action opponent Richard Epstein to President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. Epstein and other critics believe that the president wants to chose "a daughter of Puerto Rican parents raised in Bronx public housing projects to become the nation's first Hispanic justice," instead of an accomplished jurist. What they seem to forget is that Sotomayor has more experience on the bench than any nominee in the last 100 years, was a criminal prosecutor, and graduated with honors from Princeton and Yale.

Sotomayor herself doesn't seem blind to her ethnicity. She's (now infamously) quoted as saying: "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." In this quote, Sotomayor invokes an argument for affirmative action: diversity is desirable.

The Obama administration has neutralized the affirmative action meme by being clear about one thing: Sotomayor's impressive accomplishments and exceptional legal mind were a prerequisite for her nomination. Her background is just a bonus.

The assumption that affirmative action gives minorities an "unfair" advantage often means they need to work twice as hard to earn respect. Do you think the solution is getting rid of affirmative action, or trying to change people's attitudes?


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