I am not sure what the press hopes to achieve by framing opposition to the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor as racism.
The real meat of nomination debates is judicial philosophy. If American were to engage in an in-depth conversation about the idea of an "empathetic" judicial philosophy; I suspect they would find the philosophy lacking.
An empathetic judge is a judge who places substantial weight on who a person is in their decision.
The idea sounds great until people realize that there is a 50% chance that the judge will empathize with the other party in the case. In a world with judges ruling on empathy is a crap shoot. Lawyers who learn to posture to foibles of the empathetic judges will be able to sweep up, while the public at large would be diminished.
When one looks, one finds empathetic judges at the heart of many of the historic injustices of the world.
The whole Jim Crow judicial system was run by judges who empathized with the person who felt uncomfortable using the same water fountain as an African American.
In Europe one found the Jewish population driven into the ghetto as judges systematically geared their empathy to the Christians.
Judges, who tend to be part of the ruling class, tend to empathize with the ruling class.
A much more interesting debate is the debate between an activist and conservative judge. An activist judge is a judge seeking to re-engineer society through rulings. A conservative judge is one who concentrates on the accuracy of argument and values consistency in the law and dislikes changing precedence.
The name "conservative judge" is not all that enticing until one thinks about the way the court works in society at large. The people living with a conservative judiciary have an easier time interacting in society as the rules become well known.
It is much harder to live in a world where judges are actively trying to mix things up, or when there are major changes in decisions based on the feelings of the current empathetic judge.