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Linda Chavez
Linda Chavez
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Judge Sotomayor and the Diversity Crowd

Comment

The diversity crowd doesn't really believe in diversity. In fact, what they're really aiming for is conformity of opinion. They expect that members of racial and ethnic groups will adhere to liberal orthodoxy, and woe to those who don't fall into line. If Judge Sotomayor were a conservative or the nominee of a Republican president, we'd be hearing that she wasn't an "authentic" Latina at all.

I recall similar arguments used by my critics when I was the first Latina nominated to a U.S. Cabinet back in 2001. You're only celebrated as the "first" by the diversity crowd when you're the first Democrat. Just ask Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Spencer Abraham, Elaine Chao, Bobby Jindal, or Michael Steele.

As someone whose profession entails having opinions, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised by how often I've been asked what I think about Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court. What is surprising, however, is that many of those asking the question seemed less interested in my analysis of the judge's judicial record than in whether I felt any special pride in her appointment because of our shared ethnicity.

I could see their puzzlement as I recounted some of Judge Sotomayor's rulings. I was clearly missing the point of their inquiry: She's an Hispanic woman; I'm an Hispanic woman. We both grew up in disadvantaged circumstances but managed to overcome our humble beginnings. We must be simpatico , right? Wrong.

Apparently it comes as a surprise to some people, but not all Hispanics (or women) think alike. Why should race, ethnicity, gender, or even class determine one's point of view on political or legal issues? What's more, when it comes to Hispanics, there is often not even a single, shared culture that might create a common bond.

As L.A. Times columnist Gregory Rodriguez recently pointed out, most of the people described as Hispanics — or Latinos, the term Rodriquez prefers — don't identify with the catch-all term, but think of themselves in terms of their national origin (Mexican, El Salvadoran, Puerto Rican, etc.). Not surprisingly, most immigrants regard their country of origin as important in their identity.

But for most Hispanics who were born in the U.S., our primary identity is as Americans.

In the largest poll of its kind in 2002, nearly 60 percent of third-generation Hispanics used the term "American" as either the only or first term to describe themselves, and 97 percent said they use American to identify themselves at least some of the time.

Still, the media and most politicians seem to think Sotomayor's ethnic heritage and gender are relevant to the story of her Supreme Court nomination. She's the first female Hispanic to be named to the highest court in the land, and that must mean something, the thinking goes. But what? Frankly, it was only a matter of time before an Hispanic reached the Court. True barriers — meaning disqualifications based on race, ethnicity or gender — simply don't exist anymore.

Most ordinary Americans seem to have caught on to this phenomenon faster than elites, which may be why they are becoming increasingly skeptical of the idea that we need government policies to enforce "diversity." A new Quinnipiac University poll taken after the Sotomayor nomination shows that 70 percent of Americans are opposed to granting preferences to minorities or women in hiring in order to promote diversity. Even members of some of the groups granted such preferential treatment seem unenthusiastic about it. Hispanics, for example, overwhelmingly oppose preferential treatment in government hiring in order to promote diversity, 58 to 38 percent. But they split more evenly when the question is phrased in the more nebulous terms of "affirmative action" in hiring, promotions, or college admissions, with 48 percent opposing and 47 percent favoring affirmative action for Hispanics.

Which brings me back to Judge Sotomayor's nomination and my reaction to it. I doubt that those clamoring for more diversity on the Court would be thrilled if the nominee were an Hispanic (or Asian or black or Muslim or gay) woman whose views were closer to Justice Antonin Scalia's than Ruth Bader Ginsburg's. I don't remember many diversity devotees cheering Clarence Thomas' appointment — even though his life story trumps Sotomayor's in the overcoming hardship category.

The next time someone asks me what I think about the Sotomayor pick, I'll say: It's not about a black president picking an Hispanic woman to replace a white man on the court. It's about a liberal president choosing a liberal jurist to replace a retiring liberal justice. It's not diversity; it's more of the same.

Linda Chavez is the author of "An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal." To find out more about Linda Chavez, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.



Comments

2 Comments | Post Comment
Ma'am;...You are kind of the Aunt Tom of hispanics...I don't blame you... Even in the death camps there were people who identified with the oppressors... It is the one thing that makes life easier for victims... We should all identify with the victors in life, and try to curry favor with them...I can't do it, and if Mrs. Sotomayor can't do it, I do not know why... She is trained to the form of law, and she is conditioned by the form of wealth, so if she cannot see it their way I don't know who can... I have bad breath and B.O... I can't even get people I like to like me, so why would I try to get a bunch of rich a-holes to see me as a human being... I think the rich see us only as much as they can use us... I think they see hispanics only as much as they can use them...I think they only see Puerto Ricans as much as they can use them... And they only see women as much as they can use them...It would not be unnatural for Mrs. Sotomayor to see things from the point of view of the underdogs... That is what the law is really about...Law is about repairing the relationship so the forms in society will work.. It does not matter what the constitution says if no one, expecially those in government cares to read it...Instead, everyone ought to try to see beyond the forms, of law, of government, of society, of power, of wealth to our true purpose here, to build a nation of many different people...If we were a family we would not see the greed of one feeding on all others as a virtue...The thought that some good should come out of that vice is daft...That court is the place where freedom will be rescued or finally doomed... Before that court stands for the constitution they should read it, and judge it according to its well stated aims... It has not done what it was intended to do...It is impossible for this divided people to fix the constitution to make it work for us... So if we do not have an active court, and a court willing to see beyond the constitution to the goals those who wrote it clearly stated; then we are only marking time till the end of this country once and for all... Lincoln said it: A house divided cannot stand...Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Tue Jun 9, 2009 9:06 PM
Linda - liberals don't need to conform minorities because they already know about social injustices first hand. They already want equal justice under the law, and they already believe in civil and human rights. Disadvantaged people are already aware of the greediness of the filthy rich and large corporations. Judge Sotomayor's critics are indignant over her audacity of being proud to be a Latina! Some of them seem to be fearful of her threat to the status quo and to their white male domination. And, some of them probably didn't have to struggle throughout their lives and therefore don't fully understand different people or feel their pain and suffering. Because of their lack of empathy, they should be only looking at her education and experience on the bench and not be ignorantly stereotyping her gender and race. But I must say, her being a double minority should add a fresh perspective and more insightfulness (wisdom) to the U.S. Supreme Court. It's only natural that our experiences affect our decisions and lives, we are human beings not robots. Personally, I will be happy to finally see a brown face on this high court! President Obama did promise us diversity (and fairness), didn't he?
Comment: #2
Posted by: Anita Quintanilla
Thu Jun 11, 2009 6:37 PM
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