Monday, July 20, 2009

Attacks on Sotomayor Unwarranted

Guest essay by Álvaro Huerta

I’m baffled that some Republicans have viciously attacked Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

Too often I’ve heard Republicans talk about the lack of the so-called Protestant work ethic in minority communities and how if only poor minorities worked harder, pursued higher education and stopped depending on government welfare programs, then, they too could achieve the American Dream.

But what happened when President Obama appointed the exact type of hard-working and ambitious individual that these Republicans say they admire—the pull-yourself-by-the-boot-straps ideal—to replace retiring Justice Souter on the Supreme Court?

Instead of applauding someone with Ivy League degrees from Princeton and Yale Law School, someone with 17 years of experience on the federal bench, someone with the highest rating from the American Bar Association, many Republicans have engaged in a smear campaign aimed at portraying Judge Sotomayor as biased and outside of the mainstream.

Prior to [last] week’s hearings, the de facto leaders of the dysfunctional Republican Party, which includes former Speaker Newt Gingrich, political commentator Pat Buchanan and talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, portrayed Judge Sotomayor as a racist and radical judge.

At the hearings, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, such as Senators’ Jeff Sessions (R-Ala), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C), Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), acted as if they had the moral high ground on the issue of prejudice. This is the same Republican Party that opposed many of the major civil rights laws in the past forty-five years.

While the Republican members did show more restraint when directly questioning Judge Sotomayor compared to rightwing commentators on talk radio and Fox News, they still played a divisive game by harping on Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” remark, even after she herself had backed off it. Laughably, the senators attempted to portray themselves paragons of impartiality.

Something is wrong with this picture.

I hope most Americans will recognize and renounce the condescending line of questioning by these Senators. It should not be lost on the American public that here we had a few privileged white men standing in judgment of a highly accomplished female member of a minority group that has historically been exploited for low-wage work, segregated in inner-cities and treated as second class in this country.

Sotomayor was absolutely correct when she said, “We’re not robots.” She explained what should have been obvious to the Senators: “Life experiences have to influence you.” But she insisted that “the law is what commands the result,” not your feelings or life experiences, which a judge must put aside.

Senator Sessions, who led the charge against Sotomayor, himself has a history of making prejudiced comments, a history that prevented him from being approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee two decades ago for a U.S. district court judgeship. For instance, he called white civil rights lawyers “race traitors” and said he used to think the Ku Klux Klan was OK until he found out some members smoked marijuana.

Maybe his own life experiences and prejudices have been influencing him too much. He should put them aside—not flaunt them at the hearings.

The Senate Judiciary Committee and the entire Senate should confirm the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. She has proven—with her impressive record and her calm and thoughtful presentation at the hearings this week—that she is eminently qualified for the job.

[This essay originally appeared in The Progressive.]

Álvaro Huerta is a doctoral student at the University of California Berkeley and a visiting scholar at UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center.


Maggie Thornton said...

Mr Olivis, I don't believe Republicans even considered a poor work ethic. We object to her La Raza membership, her advocating for voting rights for felons based on their race, we know that she had 60% of her decisions overturned by the SCOTUS. Then, we certainly do not like her Second Amendment rulings, or her globalist views that want to consider the law of other countries when it comes to child custody. We hate the fact that she champions abortion at any stage, even though the mother's life is not in danger.

We certainly think her dissent on the Frank Ricci case was wrong and was clearly racist.

Can you exlain the "wise Latino woman comment? The comment was so racist that her own Senator Patrick Leahy had to lie about what she actually said when he introduced her on the first day of the hearings.

When she served for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund and Task Force, she saw the death penalty for Puerto Ricans as "racist."

Did I mention that she is a La Raza member????

She IS racist! not to mention verging on incompetent.

Anonymous said...

Note: Anonymous = Alvaro Huerta

To The Above Critic and Republican Party:

As someone who was raised in E.L.A. housing projects, attended elite universities and is married to a wise Chicana, I can empathize with Sonia Sotomayor’s story. By “empathy,” I mean being able to relate to her upbringing and understand what she meant by her “wise Latina” comment.

That being said, while she apologized for her “wise Latina” comment, the Republican Party is in no moral position to slander a racial minority who grew up in Bronx housing projects, raised by a single parent and managed to succeed at the two of best universities in the world.

This is the same Republican Party that has opposed major civil rights laws in the past forty-five years and advocates for a system that benefits the rich over the poor, employers over workers, corporate polluters over local residents and Wall Street over Main Street.

If the Republican Party truly believes in racial equality, where was the Party during the past century to fight against Jim Crow, “equal but separate” policy in public schools, urban renewal, White flight to the suburbs, segregation in America’s barrios and ghettos, race restrictive housing covenants, lack of minorities in higher education and the high incarceration rate of minorities?

Lastly, what can be said about a Party that questions the competence of a highly qualified candidate to the Supreme Court when it promotes intellectually challenged individuals like Sara Palin and George W. Bush as national and world leaders?

Anonymous said...

Ms. Maggie M. Thornton I implore you to not only review your ideology, but also to go back to school and receive an actual education; it will certainly help out your criticisms. Being a wise individual has nothing to do with being racist. Your accusations are circular arguments; you use your claim as a proof of its truth. On another note, pro lifers should not be advocates of the death penalty, nor advocates of doing away with citizenship as a natural birth right, especially for children of immigrant parents. If you do not see anything wrong with this platform, then you are a truly lost soul, and I am sorry for pointing that out.

TheNeilinator said...

I think racism becomes too much of an issue when considering any non-Caucasian nominee to any distinguished political position. It often detracts from the real issue.

To Maggie, on the "Wise Latina Comment". As I just wrote in my blog yesterday. While Sotomayor's comment was less than politically correct, nor accurate, it does have some truth behind it. It is fairly accepted that diversity of views, experiences, and orientations is highly valuable on the Supreme Court for obvious reasons. Since there is only one other female, one other minority, and zero Hispanic judges on the SC, a wise latina truly does effect the SC's conclusion better than a white male in this case, if you get the pun on her quote :).

Maggie Thornton said...

@The Nellinator: I do not see that a gender should have anything to do with a Supreme Court ruling. The gender of anyone appear before the SCOTUS should have nothing to do with the decision.

Empathy should have no place inside the Supreme Court. Once you stoop to consider your empathic feelings, you have added social justice to the Court. It's just wrong.