By Fidel "Butch" Montoya
The historic nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the first member of our community for the Supreme Court has created a groundswell of support for her nomination. President Barack Obama made the decision to nominate Sotomayor based on her qualifications and the "empathy" she would bring to the Court. The President said, "Sotomayor would bring more experience on the bench than anyone currently serving on the Supreme Court when appointed."
Judge Sotomayor is living the American Dream. Raised in the South Bronx in New York City, she typifies the expectations of every Latino family to work hard and expect success to follow. In Sotomayor's case, she grew up in a public housing project after her parents moved from Puerto Rico. Her parents, like so many other Latino parents, came from humble beginnings. And, like so many other Latino parents, harbored dreams of success for their children.
A poll by the Los Angeles Times says 54 per cent of Americans support her nomination to the Supreme Court. 28 per cent oppose her nomination, and a sizable group of 19 per cent had no opinion. Clearly, the majority of Americans believe she is an excellent choice to serve on the Supreme Court.
While a solid majority of Democrats and Independents support her nomination, 57 per cent of Republicans do not. It should not be surprising to read that Republicans do not support her nomination. After all, the GOP "has been" leaders have shown no shame in calling Sotomayor a "racist," or "Hey, Hispanic chick lady," as FoxNews commentator Glen Beck called her. He went on further trying to justify his remarks by saying, "Gee, she sure sounds like a racist here. Do you think she is a racist?" Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has blasted her as "unqualified," and as a "Latina woman racist."
However, the most telling negative comments from Republicans came from anti-immigrant crusader, Tom Tancredo. Of all people to call Sotomayor a "racist," America's most publicized bigot and racist has the gall to speak out against her because he disagrees with her because, I assume, she is a Latina.
Right-wing TV mudslinger Pat Buchanan claims that Sotomayor is an "affirmative action candidate." He, along with Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard, believes she "has benefited from affirmative action over the years tremendously."
Tancredo also had the temerity to claim that Sotomayor is a member of an extremist group called "La Raza." Of course, he was referring to the National Council of La Raza, which he called "a Latino KKK without the hoods or nooses."
As you may know, the NCLR is one of the most respected civil rights Latino organizations along with the Mexican America Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Believe it or not, here is America's Most Wanted Racist calling Sotomayor a "racist." Tancredo, who has no shame, confirmed with his mean-spirited comments what a lot of us long have suspected - he is a man who has lost all of his marbles.
The highly controversial right-wing radioman, otherwise known as the cigar smoking Rush Limbaugh, has used his national radio program to fire up the Republican base to oppose her nomination by using the "R word" again. He said, "Here you have a racist."
Limbaugh didn't stop with that incendiary statement. "Do I want her to fail? Yeah. Do I want her to fail to get on the Court? Yeah, she would be a disaster on the Court." He also said, "Now you have one appointed to the Supreme Court." (Limbaugh was referring to his comments in which he called Obama "the greatest living example of a reverse racist.")
It is a sorry state of affairs when every right-wing pundit is trying to outdo each other with who can find the most ugly and hateful words to demean the years of experience Sotomayor has as a federal judge.
With 17 years on the federal bench, she is obviously the most experienced person nominated to the Supreme Court in at least 100 years. Sotomayor deserves to be confirmed by the Senate. In spite of the foul-mouthed Gingrich, Limbaugh, Beck, Buchanan, Barnes and Hannity (people Fiaz Shakir calls, "right-wing hate merchants," in his blog on AlterNet), Sotomayor will be confirmed.
The conservative cadre claims Sotomayor will allow her Latina heritage and life experiences to tip the scales of justice unfairly as a member of the Supreme Court. That claim stems from a comment that Sotomayor made at the UC Berkeley School of Law annual symposium co-hosted by the La Raza Law Journal, and Berkeley La Raza Law Student Association at UC Berkeley School of Law back in 2001.
Sotomayor said, "I 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." This comment is probably the biggest reason for the firestorm of criticism from the right wing pundits and politicians.
The cultural reality and a proposition that many majority Americans cannot accept is the fact that our cultural heritage and upbringing does bear on our values and opinions. I believe it is important to put that "damning comment" made by Sotomayor at the law symposium in perspective. Something the blind and deaf right-wing of the Republican Party either cannot see or simply fails to understand.
During her presentation at the law symposium, Sotomayor further clarified her opinion that gender or cultural backgrounds can and will affect decisions that judges must make.
Sotomayor explained, "Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."
I believe that because of our cultural upbringing and life experiences, we may see issues differently based on our life perspectives. I also believe Sotomayor will bring that "empathy" to the Supreme Court and, as a result, ensure that justice is shared with all who bring their grievances to the court.
Still, as we journey through life, we will have to deal with people, who because of their lack of cultural sensitivity and ignorance of life equity issues, will always make fools of themselves. If Tancredo knew of the work of the National Council of La Raza, he would never even consider or compare the KKK to the NCLR.
If he understood the significance that the NCLR has in our Latino community as a strong voice of equity and civil rights, he would agree that his racist comments have only given us reason to doubt that he has all of America in mind when he claims to work on issues affecting the citizens of our country.
Obama, Sotomayor, and the Democratic Party leadership work to keep the debate about the real issues for confirmation and not the wedge issues continually pushed in our faces by the GOP choir of xenophobia and intolerance.
It is interesting to note that Newt Gingrich finally backed away from his initial reaction to the nomination of Sotomayor and apologized, saying that his reaction was "perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so." Gingrich went on to say, "The word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable."
Now from one extreme to the other in the Sotomayor debate is the matter of the Tancredo interview on CNN where he called Sotomayor a "racist," and NCLR as the "Latino KKK."
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) is demanding that CNN, which carried the Tancredo interview with reporter Rick Sanchez, denounce the Tancredo remarks. It is also demanding that CNN refrain from "providing a forum for pundits that consistently disparage the Latino community."
Additionally, MALDEF and NCLR are collecting petitions to send to CNN, reflecting their concerns and outlining their demands. MALDEF laid out their position in a press release. "MALDEF will not stand by and watch as Tancredo attempts to smear the reputation of one of the nation's distinguished federal jurists with false claims and misinformation."
Talking about false claims and misinformation, this attempt to muzzle CNN is simply wrong. While there is no way I could endorse what Tancredo said in his interview, MALDEF and NCLR are reacting like the rightwing extremists Gingrich and Limbaugh. They are coming up with a ridiculous attempt to censure people with different opinions and their right of free speech.
I wonder if along with his apology, Gingrich also volunteered to do some community service for the Latino community. If so, I am wondering if he did not volunteer his time as a news pundit to assist MALDEF and NCLR with their silly complaint about CNN.
That is about the only way I can understand why MALDEF and NCLR would demand an apology from CNN because the network aired Tancredo's comments about Sotomayor. By asking people to sign on to their Internet petition, they have successfully diverted the debate about Sotomayor's qualifications to a wedge issue of free speech.
Perhaps the headman from Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez, offered some of his personal advice as well since he is so good at shutting down any news organization that criticizes his government for corruption.
At any rate, let's forget about the questionable petitions criticizing a national cable news channel for doing their job for presenting a diversity of opinions and ideas and let us keep the debate on ensuring that Judge Sonia Sotomayor becomes the first Latina Supreme Court Justice.
Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972.
This article previously was posted at Latino Landscape -