Sotomayor on Thomas on Affirmative Action

January 12th, 2013

Interesting discussions from Nina Totenberg’s interview of Justice Sotomayor about her new book.

“As much as I know Clarence, admire him and have grown to appreciate him,” she says, “I have never ever focused on the negative of things. I always look at the positive. And I know one thing: If affirmative action opened the doors for me at Princeton, once I got in, I did the work. I proved myself worthy. So, I don’t look at how the door opened.”

At Princeton, where she went to undergraduate school, there were fewer than 30 Latinos, she says, “but all of us had done spectacularly well in our high schools.” And while Sotomayor cannot explain why Thomas, the nation’s second African-American justice, feels so differently from her, she says, “I do know one thing about me: I don’t measure myself by others’ expectations or let others define my worth.”

It was only when she was close to graduating from Yale Law School several years later that she encountered the kind of stereotyping that Justice Thomas has often written about. At a recruiting dinner, a partner in a large Washington, D.C., firm looked at her and asked, “Did you get into Yale only because you are Puerto Rican?”

She was stunned.

“It took me aback to think that someone was actually looking at me that way,” she says, noting that the man apparently knew nothing about her academic successes.

“Now that’s the price of affirmative action that Clarence Thomas talks about … and it’s one that can lead to the sense that the benefits might be outweighed by the negative impressions it leaves. But that was my first moment experiencing that kind of overt discrimination.”

And, because I was told that Sotomayor’s book could not be summarized in Hakiu form:

H/T Michelle Olsen