Friday, June 12, 2009

Sotomayor, Perfect Afirmative Action Baby, And Justice

Latina 'patina'....?

Like many, I've been interested in learning about Sonya Sotomayor, the person President Obama nominated as the replacement for Justice Souter. Given her relative youth and the longevity evidenced by her mother, she may assume a position enabling her to wield significant impact on the lives of all Americans, and potentially even citizens of other countries as well, for decades to come.

Of all the members of the body politic in the United States, the Justices of the Supreme Court Of The United States are arguably the most significant compared to the President, given their life appointment and the relative finality of their pronouncements regarding the fundamental laws and actions of our society.  In our tricameral governmental structure of Executive-Legislative-Judicial branches, SCOTUS can be seen as trumping all others. As a result, it would appear reasonable that nominees should be subject to comprehensive evaluation, and be expected to meet the highest standards of judicial ethics, jurisprudence and legal scholarship that can be established.

Focused on learning about her, I've now read, watched, and listened to well over a hundred commentaries regarding Judge Sotomayor's nomination.  The Administration initially focused on her "compelling life story", and then, because of her bias-laden comment regarding the superiority of a "wise-Latina woman's" decision capabilities over a white male because of the 'richness of her experience', they have now focused on her varied years of law experience, which should be the main aspect of her qualification.

Having been born and raised in the Bronx, attending parochial schools there, and being only a few years older than Judge Sotomayor, I was intrigued by the comments regarding her 'compelling life story'.  It sounded as if it would be interesting.  However, it wasn't.  In reality, her mother has the "compelling story"; that of a humble  immigrant woman, widowed young, who then manages to successfully raise two children and facilitate their lives as successful professionals in the law and medicine. She is the role model; working two jobs; shepherding her children through Catholic schools and maintaining a strong focus on family, education and accomplishment.  Bravo for Mrs. Sotomayor!

Bronxdale Apartments - Today

As far as compelling life stories, many of the people who I knew while  growing up in the Bronx and Manhattan, had  life stories much more compelling than Sonya Sotomayor's.  Despite the picture that the media has created, the projects in the Bronx during that time period were relatively benign environments, and in some comparisons, better than some other Bronx environments.  There were significantly more mean places to live and grow up in than in the projects, and many of my own classmates in Catholic school had to deal with far worse housing and family situations than she did. Despite that, many also became very successful and prestigious adults and parents - and without any Affirmative Action assistance.

One of the first items that caught my attention in the stories about her was her self description as a "Latina".  In my life experience, that was not phrase that was used.  More to the point, I would guess that she was fully assimilated as just a New Yorker, and didn't even present herself as a minority. If people did mention their cultural background, they usually took significant pride in their specific heritage and culture, identifying themselves as Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Haitian, Columbian, etc, not "Latina's", or "Latino's".  That was a descriptive that didn't come into play until the early 70's, when people began to understand how to game the Affirmative Action system.  That was right about the time when Sonya Sotomayor was entering Princeton.  She appears to have quickly learned the advantages of being 'disadvantaged', and has used the patina of a disadvantaged "Latina" proudly and effectively to her own advantage, despite it's apparent lack of applicability in her own case.  In an interview on TV the other day, her brother commented that she finally learned to dance Salsa for her 50th birthday party; not exactly the "Latina" she presents herself as.

I've searched for evidence of her scholarship, but unfortunately have only been able to discover comments to the opposite. It's probably fair to discount her decisions that have been overturned by the Supreme Court, as other nominees have also had their decisions overturned. But, her pending case in review regarding the white firemen in Connecticut does have bearing, due to her summary dismissal of their reverse discrimination law suit.  Since she has acknowledged her bias of perceived superiority in decision making against white males, multiple times over a period of years, can her future decisions be seen as un-biased, or will they alway now be suspect?

She may well be a competent and experienced jurist, and she may well be excellent as an Appellate judge, with the possibility of review by the Supreme Court, but is she the model of a Justice of the Supreme Court?  Is she the best person that Obama can nominate  to fill that responsibility, or is she just the best Affirmative Action candidate who provides cover for Obama's election paybacks?

 I found it disturbing to listen to the woman, Angela Langereau(?) who was interviewed on NPR.  She had attended Cardinal Spellman H.S. with Sonya, and had the highest grades in the class.  Normally, she should have been the Class Valedictorian, but the honor was given to Sonia.  One can only assume why that happened, but today, you can still hear the hurt in Angela's voice over the actual discrimination that she experienced.

One of the major aspects of Barack Obama's campaign was that he supposedly represented the possibility of post-racial politics in this country.  Like many of the other turnabouts from his campaign to his Presidency, the post-racial character aspect appears to be absent.  We don't need a Justice who burnishes her patina as a "Latina".  We need an exemplary jurist, and a "Justice" who's blindfold is still covering both of her eyes.

President Obama, you can do better.  Yes, you can.

Reading list....

Sotomayor Related Commentaries
Thomas Sowell: 'Out of Context': Part III
 Sotomayor’s own hiring practices reinforce the concerns of counsel for the plaintiff firefighters in Ricci v. DeStefano 


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