Thoughtful Thursday – A Wise Latina Woman Once Said . . .

That wisdom has nothing to do with race, religion, ethnicity or gender.

Much is being made of Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonya Sotomayor’s 2001 comments that she “would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Much should be made of that statement because it is either a statement made with poor judgment or one made with the conviction that she is better equipped to make a decision because she is a Latina woman. Either of the rationales for the statements is troubling.

As a judge and a person in the public eye, Sotomayor should at least be more circumspect when speaking. Being a fellow lawyer, we are taught to carefully consider what we say and write. To not do so and speak thoughtlessly can lead to repercussions, witnessed here by words that are coming back to haunt her.

Being a Latina who understands the whole underdog thing — my parents came here from Cuba, I wasn’t born here and didn’t speak English when I went to kindergarten, I went to a top tier college on a scholarship and to law school — I appreciate how hard Sotomayor has worked to get where she is.

But isn’t that underdog story typical of America? Isn’t that one of the wondrous things about this country? My husband’s grandparents all came here from Italy. Barely spoke English, but learned. Worked hard to buy homes, send their kids to school. Grand kids have prospered.

It’s the American dream. Work hard and prosper. Whether you’re white, black, brown, Italian, Cuban, Irish, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, America is the land of opportunity. Equal opportunity, sometimes not as equal as we would like, but certainly doable.

I should know. I did it. My parents did it. My husband’s grandparents did it. So did millions of others.

But back to Sotomayor. She did it and we should applaud her for it, but not just because she is a Latina woman.

You might remember that “just because” discussion from months back. The risks of making decisions based on “just because.”

When the nomination was mentioned, many people in the office looked to me and asked, “What do you think?”

I wondered, did they ask their white male counterparts right off the bat, or just me – the Latina Woman.

That’s one of the problems of “just because.” Everything you do is tainted by the “You got that (job/scholarship/nomination/published) just because you were (white, black, brown, Italian, Cuban, Irish, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim).”

Just because diminishes you and everything you do. It diminishes those around you and builds resentment.

If we are to nominate Judge Sotomayor to the Nation’s most important Court, please let it be on the basis of something other than just because.

I, for one, intend to read more about her and her decisions and you should as well. You can click here for the White House press release. Read about some of her decisions (links provided, although I do not vouch for their authenticity nor the opinions which may be expressed therein).

http://www.scotusblog.com/wp/judge-sotomayor%E2%80%99s-opinions-with-dissents-%E2%80%93-part-i/

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/05/26/us/0526-scotus.html

http://ninthjustice.nationaljournal.com/2009/06/debate-continues-on-sotomayors.php

And do you know what? If you take even one minute to read one of these cases, you will be one up on Harry Reid, who said, “I understand that during her career, she’s written hundreds and hundreds of opinions. I haven’t read a single one of them, and if I’m fortunate before we end this, I won’t have to read one of them.” Courtesy Politico – click here for more.

Just some thoughts for you on this rainy Thursday.

0 thoughts on “Thoughtful Thursday – A Wise Latina Woman Once Said . . .”

  1. I believe too much is being made of everyone’s ethnic background.

    I believe if you were born in America, you are an American, if not, and you became a naturalized citizen, then you are a Latino-American, and African American, an Asian American and so on.

    I believe I am sick to death of the ethnic qualifying tags. If they must be, then I am a Greek-Scottish, Slovakian American.

    As long as we continue to tag ourselves, there will be a problem.

    Someone has to go first, so I will.

    I am a successful American woman with a proud American heritage. I am who I am because of my heritage, but it does not define me. I define me as an individual who is proud and honored to have been born in the USA and can claim to be an American citizen with no strings attached.

  2. As most of you know, I try to respond to each and every blog post. Because I was unable to reach some of you via e-mail, I felt it appropriate to post the following comment in response:

    I market myself as many things, including a Latina writer so that Latinas know that what I write may appeal to them. That label is certainly not intended to say, this book is better than one by a white/brown/black/Irish/etc. person.

    And I certainly do understand things are not always fair, but I truly believe that hurdles can be overcome by hard work and perseverance. I’ve had my share of discrimination in my life, both as a Latina and as a woman, but I always fought back hard to accomplish what I wanted and to show my daughter that she, too, could accomplish whatever she wanted.

    Was that discrimination always from those in the traditional positions of power? As a “white” Latina, I have oftentimes been excluded by Latinas who felt I was not sufficiently “of color.”

    Someone with Sotomayor’s training should have recognized the damage such words might do, particularly when the law is not something that should be interpreted based on personal experience. It’s why Justice is blind – so that decisions are based on the law and not other variables.

    Does it work that way all the time? No, unfortunately not.

    As I mentioned on the blog, I am taking the time to read through some of the expert commentaries on the cases as well as some of the cases themselves to make a decision. It’s wrong to make a decision on just one statement or after reading none of her decisions.

    Thanks for writing. I appreciate hearing from you.

  3. I apologize for not reading this over before I clicked submit but I made an error in the last paragraph:
    I meant to write
    Too many people get lost on the way to this elusive dream, specifically people whose outward appearance tends to NOT fit the norm while others who DO (ie White Cubans and Italians–even swarthy ones) have easier access to it.

  4. I think it’s a bit unfair of you to judge her comments as troublesome because you yourself market yourself as a Latina writer–which I’m sure make your writing different and add something that a white male could not ever add to his writing. Her comment was valid and if she had been black, and the ‘latina’ part substituted for ‘black woman’ or ‘asian’ or ‘X race/ethinicity’ it would have been just as valid because society is composed of tilted relationships of power unfavorably composed against the historically subjugated, ie women of color (specifically women of color who don’t have the privilege of being able to ‘blend’ or ‘mainstream’ because of lighter skin).
    Our society is not a just and fair one regardless of how many ‘American Dream’ Success Stories we know of. Too many people get lost on the way to this elusive dream–specifically people whose outward appearance tends to fit the norm (ie White Cubans and Italians–even swarthy ones). If you are privileged enough to live in this society and be afforded ‘success’ by your own labor–good, but also be aware that some of that success was facilitated by the power dynamics in place that allowed this–ie: skin color, features, money, education, favorable u.s. politics to your immigrant status.

  5. I have been thinking about this and I feel as if she is between a rock and a hard place. No matter what she did one group or another would have said, “IT was just because…”
    I remembered one summer when I was working at a snack bar. We were really busy and my cousin (cho was at the end of the line) jumped the line saying that I was his cousin and would wait on him next. He made such a fuss that everyone was watching to see what I would do. If I waited on him the croud would be upset and if I didn’t he would never let me forget it – and he hasn’t! That’s the position I see Judge Sotomayer in.

  6. I am glad to hear that I am not the only
    Hispanic woman who is troubled by the
    comments made by Judge Sotomayor. It
    would be good to have her on the Supreme Court, but I’m afraid she has damaged her chances. She might yet make it “just because,” but her every ruling would be so studied that the focus would be on her, not the decisions!

    Pat Cochran

  7. Interesting comments. I didn’t understand some of her decisions so I sent this to “My Daughter The Lawyer” so she can ‘splain it to me :>)

  8. I’ve been listening, Caridad~~and I agree. I’m not knowledgeable enough about law to critique her decisions~~but several comments she has publicly made, including the one mentioned, are troubling to me. I want to say YES, Woman Power, regardless of race, but I also want to get the BEST person for the job, not someone whose judgements are going to be fraught w/ questions and disputed forevermore. I think Obabma is looking to fill this spot w/ a very specific mind set~~and Sotomayor fills it. I just hope they don’t put off the confirmation hearings until after summer~~if she’s not going to get the nod, they need to be deciding who IS.

  9. I must admit that I haven’t kept up with national politics as much as I should have lately. Seems I’m always busy when the news comes on. I wasn’t even aware of the controversity until a few days ago. 😳 I have never been a fan of the “just because” idea. I have been denied jobs “just because” I am not an enrolled tribe member. I live next to the Cherokee Reservation and that is where most of the jobs are in this area. When I went to work at Harrah’s in 1997, a lot of jobs I was qualified for went to someone who was less qualified “just because” they were enrolled and I wasn’t. They are paid more also “just because” they are enrolled. While it isn’t fair, they get away with it because they own the casino. So I am the underdog in this situation. I have since retired but the practice is alive and well in this area. I personally feel every job should go to the most qualified person regardless of their race. After reading some of the articles you provided, I am sure Ms. Sotomayor is qualified but I am afraid her remarks may cost her this job. Why can’t people stop to think before opening their mouth and inserting their foot? Have a great day and welcome back. Hugs,

  10. I must admit that I haven’t kept up with national politics as much as I should have lately. Seems I’m always busy when the news comes on. I wasn’t even aware of the controversity until a few days ago. 😳 I have never been a fan of the “just because” idea. I have been denied jobs “just because” I am not an enrolled tribe member. I live next to the Cherokee Reservation and that is where most of the jobs are in this area. When I went to work at Harrah’s in 1997, a lot of jobs I was qualified for went to someone who was less qualified “just because” they were enrolled and I wasn’t. They are paid more also “just because” they are enrolled. While it isn’t fair, they get away with it because they own the casino. So I am the underdog in this situation. I have since retired but the practice is alive and well in this area. I personally feel every job should go to the most qualified person regardless of their race. After reading some of the articles you provided, I am sure Ms. Sotomayor is qualified but I am afraid her remarks may cost her this job. Why can’t people stop to think before opening their mouth and inserting their foot? Have a great day and welcome back. Hugs,

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