Monday, June 15, 2009

The Audacity of Privileged White Men: Racist Attacks Against Sotomayor

By guest essayist Álvaro Huerta

In deconstructing the conservative’s recent rhetoric on key issues of the day, we can forget about Cuba’s Fidel Castro or Valenzuela’s Hugo Chavez, since America faces a bigger national “threat”: the Bronx’s Sonia Sotomayor. Following a long tradition of Latin American leaders who allegedly pose eminent danger to this country, the “wise Latina” Supreme Court nominee must be prevented from joining the highest court, in the eyes of the dwindling conservatives, or else American democracy as we know it will cease to exist.

If Sotomayor succeeds, the conservatives’ greatest nightmare might come true: not only will America’s democratic traditions and values be at risk—the same ones that brought us slavery, Jim Crow and inner-city segregation, let’s not forget—but also the nation’s “most” vulnerable group will be in jeopardy: privileged White men.

While minority leaders and liberals often decry America’s racist and brutal history against African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans, in the absence of George W. Bush, who will defend the interests of the Fortune 500 CEO’s, super rich and powerful politicians, should soon-to-be Justice Sotomayor decide to “impose” her wisdom on the Supreme Court and “construct” policy from the bench? Leave it to the conservatives’ fearless leaders—Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove—to “save” the day and lead the GOP in a vicious campaign against a highly qualified candidate who just happens to be Latina from the Bronx.

In their aim to derail the first Latina candidate to the nation’s highest court and further alienate Latino voters to their own detriment, the conservatives have painted an unfavorable portrait of Sotomayor as being unqualified and biased. Sotomayor has also been characterized as a radical and racist.

Speaking of the racist claim, former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo had the audacity—to use Obama’s term in a perverse way—to assert that Sotomayor’s association with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) correlates to being a member of the KKK. If this is indeed the case, maybe Mr. Tancredo can provide some evidence linking the NCLR to recent (or past) hate mongering, lynching or cross-burning acts in America’s exclusive suburbs?

Apart from the slanderous racist accusations, the idea that Sotomayor is intellectually unqualified for the Supreme Court only makes a mockery of America’s elite, Ivy League universities: Princeton University and Yale Law School. This is not George W. Bush we’re talking about, a self-admitted “C” student who attended Yale as a legacy kid—children of alumni who get preferential admissions treatment, i.e., affirmative action for the rich. Sotomayor excelled both as an undergrad and law student. Not an easy task for someone who grew up in the Bronx’s housing projects and whose late father only had a grade-school level education.

In the view of conservatives, unless you’re a loyal Republican and token minority, such as Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice and Alberto Gonzalez, racial minorities don’t meet their expectations. In a way, racial minorities face a major contraction in this country: if we excel in society, it’s because of preferential treatment and if we fail, then we lack the so-called Protestant work ethnic. In other words, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

The idea that Sotomayor is a radical represents another lie from the conservatives. For instance, radicals don’t usually work as prosecutors for the district attorney’s office or represent corporate interests in private law firms. Prosecutors typically represent law-and-order individuals who want to “clean” the streets of crime. Who knows, maybe Sotomayor put away some shady individuals from the same housing projects where she grew up? To look for so-called radical attorneys, we can more commonly expect to find them working as public defenders or non-profit, legal aid attorneys.

Also, the conservative’s argument that Sotomayor is biased and can’t be trusted because she has boasted about her Puerto Rican heritage in numerous speeches represents another fabrication. What’s the big deal with being proud of your ethnic or religious heritage? What about John F. Kennedy (Irish American), Joe Lieberman (Jewish American) and Antonin Scalia (Italian American), just to name a few prominent Americans? If there’s something wrong with ethnic pride, then why do we have China Town’s and Little Italy’s in this country? Why do we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day or the numerous annual parades in honor of the various ethnic groups taking place in throughout the U.S.? If this is truly a free country where free speech is cherished and promoted, there’s nothing wrong with Sotomayor being proud of her ethnic background and humble beginnings. And, if the conservatives want to identify the real racially biased individuals, they should only look in the mirror.

Finally, I must say that as an ethnic minority myself (Chicano) who also grew up in housing projects (E.L.A.’s turbulent Ramona Gardens housing project) and attended elite universities (UCLA and now UC Berkeley), I don’t see Sotomayor as a natural ally who will risk her career when it comes to controversial issues, such as the death penalty, police abuse, inhumane treatment of immigrants or the marginalization of working class people in this country. I do see, however, the hypocritical and racist attacks by conservatives of a highly qualified Latina who not only played by the rules all her life, but has also excelled by the same rules and elite institutions—originally set up by privileged White men—that have denied countless racial minorities and working class people from fulfilling the American Dream.


Guest writer Álvaro Huerta is a visiting scholar at UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center, and a doctoral student in city and urban planning at UC Berkeley. His story, "Los Dos Smileys," is featured in Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press, 2008).


Help the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center celebrate its 40th anniversary with a gift of $40.

Since its creation in 1969, the Chicano Studies Research Center (CSRC) has been a dynamic community resource, promoting research that makes a difference in a number of critical areas:

Public Policy - CSRC original research helps to inform policy in such areas as education, broadcast media, labor, healthcare, and immigration.

Classroom Resources – CSRC Press publications are in classrooms across the country, helping to shape curriculum with books like The Chicano Studies Reader, now in its 4th printing.

Diversifying Higher Education – Through its research work-study positions, postdoctoral fellowships, and faculty appointments, the CSRC provides professional opportunities for Latino academics and students.

Preserving Chicano/Latino History – The CSRC Library and Archive houses the personal papers and photographs of Latino leaders like Congressman Edward R. Roybal, as well as documents related to community-based organizations. The Frontera Collection is the largest online digital depository of U.S.-based Spanish recordings in the country.

Civic Engagement – The CSRC engages in research-oriented projects with community organizations, including Self-Help Graphics and Casa Libre / Freedom House.

Leadership – CSRC alumni have gone on to become judges, state senators, and film and television producers. Fellows and work-study students gain valuable insight and training in fields like education, government policy, non-profits, and the arts.

The CSRC has earned a national stature for our groundbreaking research and high quality programming. We invite you to join us in celebrating this important milestone by making a gift of $40 to commemorate 40 years of service to the community.

If you’d like more information about any of CSRC's programs or if you’d like to make a multi-payment pledge, please contact Christopher Best at (310) 206-5270 or

To learn more about the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, visit the Center's website or email the Center.

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C. M. Mayo's newest book is a novel entitled The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books) and it is receiving very nice reviews, indeed. Mayo sets her narrative in mid-19th century Mexico City and concerns the true story of the short and turbulent reign of the archduke of Austria, Maximilian von Hapsburg, who was made emperor of Mexico in 1864. Writing for the American-Statesman, Rebecca Markovits opines, in part:

"The Last Prince" is Mayo's first novel, and it is a real pleasure to see her sharply focused, academic intelligence stretch comfortably out into the expanses that the form offers. It is a hefty, sprawling work, more than 400 pages long, but at no point does it begin to sag under its own weight. Perhaps because its spread is solidly supported by facts, Mayo's intricate plot trips along at a natural, inexorable pace, easily traveling the sweeping map she has laid out for it, from Washington to Mexico City and all the way to the imperial halls of Europe.

You may read the entire review here.


Music Center Tours for Everyone

Don't Dress To Regress by Al Carlos Hernandez

Teada Works Call for Artists 2009/2010 Extended by Edward Padilla

Harley-Davidson Encouraging Harlistas to Share Their Stories by Juana Veliz

LAGRANT Foundation Awards $100,000 in College Scholarships by Veronica Potes

Jennifer Cetrone Sets the Stage for Theatrical Excellence

More at

◙ Gregg Barrios had his poem, "El hijo de Frida y Diego," published in the San Antonio Express-News. You may read it here.

◙ The new issue of Somos Primos is now live online. Edited by Mimi Lozano, Somos Primos is a "Dedicated to Hispanic Heritage and Diversity Issues" and is published by the Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research.

◙ The literary journal PALABRA (Issue 4) has been reviewed in Click on "Literary Magazine Reviews" link. PALABRA is edited by elena minor. For more information regarding subscriptions and submission guidelines, visit PALABRA's website or write: PALABRA A Magazine of Chicano & Latino Literary Art, P. O. Box 86146, Los Angeles, CA 90086-0146. E-mail works too:


The prolific Frederick Luis Aldama has a new book, Your Brain on Latino Comics: From Gus Arriola to Los Bros Hernandez (University of Texas Press). The cover alone is worth the purchase price. Here's a description from the publisher:

Though the field of comic book studies has burgeoned in recent years, Latino characters and creators have received little attention. Putting the spotlight on this vibrant segment, Your Brain on Latino Comics illuminates the world of superheroes Firebird, Vibe, and the new Blue Beetle while also examining the effects on readers who are challenged to envision such worlds. Exploring mainstream companies such as Marvel and DC as well as rising stars from other segments of the industry, Frederick Aldama provides a new reading of race, ethnicity, and the relatively new storytelling medium of comics themselves. Overview chapters cover the evolution of Latino influences in comics, innovations, and representations of women, demonstrating Latino transcendence of many mainstream techniques. The author then probes the rich and complex ways in which such artists affect the cognitive and emotional responses of readers as they imagine past, present, and future worlds. Twenty-one interviews with Latino comic book and comic strip authors and artists, including Laura Molina, Frank Espinosa, and Rafael Navarro, complete the study, yielding captivating commentary on the current state of the trade, cultural perceptions, and the intentions of creative individuals who shape their readers in powerful ways.

◙ That’s all for now. So, in the meantime, enjoy the intervening posts from mis compadres y comadres here on La Bloga. And remember: ¡Lea un libro!


C.M. Mayo said...

Thanks for the mention of the new novel. Blog on!

khalil said...

"I don’t see Sotomayor as a natural ally who will risk her career when it comes to controversial issues, such as the death penalty, police abuse, inhumane treatment of immigrants or the marginalization of working class people in this country."
Isn't that the truth.

Anonymous said...

"seize to exist"?

Daniel A. Olivas said...

Typo fixed...i.e., the typo ceases to exist...