So I know my coverage of the Sotomayor nomination has been scant, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not following it! Below is a great post by my colleague, Sally Kohn, about why we shouldn’t shy away from the topic of race in the Sotomayor hearings. For more analysis of the confirmation hearings, you can also check out a great New York Times editorial from yesterday. And, I have included the much-watched video of Rachel Maddow reading Pat Buchanan the riot act on his statements about Sotomayor. And now, the video where she basically tears his argument to shreds. you can check it out here.
Instead of sidestepping the conversation on race and trying to change the topic, we should use this as our own teachable moment for ourselves and the nation. Instead of criticizing Judge Sotomayor for seeing race in America, we should be asking: Why don’t the rest of us?
The area of the South Bronx where Sonia Sotomayor grew up, in the poorest urban county in the United States, is predominantly African American and Latino. In the Bronx, African American and Latino children are more likely to be arrested and tried as adults than White kids who commit the same acts, even though kids of color are ultimately found innocent at higher rates than White kids. The average household income is $29,000; a few miles away in mostly-White Manhattan, it’s $56,000. Only 16% of Bronx adults have gone to college; in Manhattan it’s 57%. Less than 20% of Bronx families own their home, one of the lowest homeownership rates in the country. In the 1990s, New York City unilaterally relocated sewage treatment facilities and waste transfer stations to the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. Rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity are far greater in the South Bronx than in comparable, White communities.
Sotomayer, whose parents are originally from Puerto Rico, represents the face of New America and the American Dream personified. The following quote from Sotomayer was published in the Spring 2002 issue of Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, a symposium issue entitled “Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation”:
Who am I? I am a “Newyorkrican.” For those of you on the West Coast who do not know what that term means: I am a born and bred New Yorker of Puerto Rican-born parents who came to the states during World War II.
Like many other immigrants to this great land, my parents came because of poverty and to attempt to find and secure a better life for themselves and the family that they hoped to have. They largely succeeded. For that, my brother and I are very grateful. The story of that success is what made me and what makes me the Latina that I am. The Latina side of my identity was forged and closely nurtured by my family through our shared experiences and traditions.
This historic nomination of not only a woman, but a Latina is an inspiring and encouraging move from the administration. It makes me proud.