We are only moments away from the confirmation of the first Latina Supreme Court Justice and months into the first tenure of America’s first black President and I’ve become a bit inundated by Facebook fan pages, tweets, yahoo groups, swelling crowds, celebrating feminists, hardcore nationalists, just groups in general. Hell, I’m exhausted.
This isn’t to say I don’t understand the excitement over well-behaved minority public officials. One needs only to look to Marion Barry, Ray Nagin, Cynthia McKinney, and Kwame Kilpatrick to understand that there is a drought in reliable leadership. However, it is this very list of elected officials that leads me to believe public excitement and desire for visual diversity has severely crippled people’s ability to critique public officials. Just how many of us actually take the time to do what we as minorities ask of others—look beyond race and gender.
Just moments after Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination was announced, calls for public support and adoration overflowed. But just who is Sonia Sotomayor? According to various news media and disgruntled politicians, she’s a radical, an activist, and someone so rooted in her heritage it would be a struggle for her to be impartial. In short, she is a woman of color from the projects in the South Bronx, a neighborhood famous as the birthplace of hip hop, the home of the Yankees, and notorious for its poverty. Let’s just say, she’s from a radical place. She, on the other hand is less so, but as popular narrative would dictate, we should all be proud and maybe a little stunned when a poor person of color does something significant enough to land them in the company of white people.
In reality, her record is very moderate. She has voted against funding abortion by upholding a 2002 ruling which disallowed funding of pro-choice organizations in Mexico City. Besides saving baseball, she is perhaps most famous for her ruling in Pappas v. Guiliani where she ruled in favor of an NYPD employee who was fired for sending hate mail. Her ruling was based largely on the protection of first amendment rights. From what I can see, she isn’t some woman bending the rules to push minority cases through nor is she using her position to highlight injustice in the world. She is simply doing her job and upholding the constitution. She actually believes in and upholds the constitution. (My belief in the constitution is an entirely different blog, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say it’s iight.)
For many, Sotomayor warrants respect not simply because of where she is from, but because of how she has gotten where she is. She has come from many worlds; poor and rich, colored and non, Republican and Democrat. She is radical, but not because she’s Latina. She is radical because she’s played the game and won.