CNN was all over it yesterday. Scandal:
Justice Antonin Scalia opened the Supreme Court’s new term Tuesday by questioning whether a man deported to Mexico after a drug conviction would be “abstaining from tequila” for fear of violating his U.S. parole terms…
Neither Crooks nor the other justices reacted visibly to Scalia’s remarks, and there was no immediate reaction from immigrant rights activists, many of whom were in the courtroom.
Did CNN’s reporter think to provide the alcohol-themed context for what Scalia said?
No, he did not.
With no one capable of explaining why Scalia’s comment should be thought offensive, Law.com reporter Tony Mauro knew what he had to do. It was time to call in a Latino:
Carlos Ortiz, former president of the Hispanic National Bar Association, was not in the audience but reacted strongly when told of the comment. “Justice Scalia is supposed to be very smart, but anyone who is supposed to be so smart would not and should not say something that insensitive. It is a really terrible comment, and he should be called on it.”
Ortiz, who has long lobbied for the appointment of a Hispanic justice and more Hispanic law clerks to the high court, added, “This is the kind of incident that makes it so clear that the Court needs more diversity.”
Did Ortiz specify why, precisely, Scalia’s comment was so terrible?
No, he did not. Maybe I can help him out, then. The problem with Scalia’s comment is that:
1) He’s a conservative
2) Who made an assumption
3) About an aspect of minority culture. Namely, that “Mexican alcohol” = “tequila.”
It would be like me hearing someone say, “Jim Webb used to drive around Watts pointing rifles at people and hurling racial slurs at them,” and then automatically assuming that those people he was pointing rifles and hurling insults at were black.
Which they were, of course. Allegedly. But the point is, we should never assume.
Because when you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and Jim Webb.