Sotomayor Just Another Latin Bigot
Like many Americans, I'm deeply offended by the assertion of Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, that race and gender are central to the quality of one's jurisprudence. And as an American of Mexican ancestry, I am embarrassed that yet another member of "La Raza" has demonstrated such narrow-minded ethnic chauvinism. Of course, this most cynical of administrations will downplay Sotomayor's bigotry as empathy and compassion for underrepresented, historically oppressed people. Nonsense.
I'm sad to say that a lot of leading Hispanics seem to be stuck in some bygone era when it comes to issues of race and gender. Their mestizo race gives some Hispanics an inflated sense of pride and uniqueness, and encourages a powerful feeling of "us" versus all the various "thems" of this multi-ethnic society. Predictably, ethnic demagogues exploit this sentiment to devastating effect, undermining assimilation, subverting effective education, and encouraging caustic identity politics.
As a centrist Democrat in college, I constantly had to defend myself against attacks from other members of Hermanos Unidos when I'd stand up for America's right to defend itself against terrorism, or took exception to another member's hate-filled celebration of the death of Ronald Reagan. Rejecting arguments that the U.S. was responsible for the perpetual dysfunction of Latin American governments, I was accused of "white washing." At every turn, my fellow Hispanics took me to task for defending "gringos" and showing too little respect for La Raza.
Hermanos Unidos quickly lost its initial appeal.
Ethnic identity is a tricky thing. On the one hand, it gives us so much to savor, and provides a space for us to exist as members of a whole instead of as atomized individuals in an impersonal society. On the other hand, too much emphasis on identity leads to exactly the kind of intolerance and arrogance Sotomayor has demonstrated -- a dismissive insolence that belittles or even writes off other people altogether. Hardly commendable examples of the empathy and compassion Obama claims to expect from his nominee.