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Sotomayor and Progress

mgarcias Icon Posted by michelle garcia

September 29th, 2009

He called. He made an offer. She cried. She thanked him.

Such were some of the details about the 8 p.m. conversation between President Obama and Sonia Sotomayor, then a judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, in which he informs Sotomayor that he will announce her as the nominee for U.S. Supreme Court.

But my attention lingers on the two promises Obama asked Sotomayor to keep:

“The first was to remain the person I was, and the second was to stay connected to my community,” she said. “And I said to him that those were two easy promises to make, because those two things I could not change.”

As we saw in the confirmation hearings, Sotomayor’s ethnicity, gender, heritage, public service, judicial philosophy came under fire and Sotomayor while demonstrating intellectual acumen and an impressive cool, did, in fact, distance herself from the very details that define her self.

To witness the substance of “diversity” drained from her nomination, to watch as the race conversation around her quickly get shoved inside the archaic black/white box made clear the lack of understanding about Latinos identity and contribution to U.S. jurisprudence.

The Sotomayor experience spurred me and a few women including our host Professor Cristina Rodriguez to organize a symposium that was held at New York University School of Law.

And from that came a Manifesto, that lays out key challenges regarding Latinos, diversity, legal constructions, a call to action.

While the chattaratti focused on the “wise Latina” comment, we might have gained some important insights into her and Latinos by—adding some context to that comment or examining her other writing, such as a paper that examines issues derived from U.S. colonialism. I invite you to listen to my commentary on NPR’s Latino USA, and pass around the manifesto.

Sotomayor’s elevation to the high court should inspire the many she is said to represent –women, Latinas/non-whites– and the nation that has presumably been enriched by the social advancement that her confirmation heralded, to embrace the challenges that were left in the wake of “progress.”

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