So a “Latina” has been nominated by Barack Obama to replace the retiring David Souter. Please explain to me how her ethnicity should make any difference. If Sonia Sotomayor were living in Puerto Rico, would her ethnicity be a factor? Of course not! So why should it matter in the United States? It shouldn’t. Her judicial philosophy should. But in today’s political climate, it’s all about ethnic and racial divisions.
By the way, Sotomayor was born in New York. Compare her to Miguel Estrada who was born in Honduras and immigrated to the United States when he was 17 with a limited command of English. He graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s degree from Columbia in 1983. He received a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree magna cum laude in 1986 from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He was nominated in 2001 by President Bush to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The Senate Democrats used a filibuster to prevent his nomination from being given a final confirmation vote on the full Senate floor. Apparently, Estrada’s story wasn’t compelling enough. Of course, we know better. It was because he wasn’t the right kind of Latino.
Is there an ethnic way to interpret the Constitution? “I simply do not know exactly what the difference will be in my judging,” she said in a speech in 2001. “But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.” Does Antonin Scalia apply some sort of Italian interpretive paradigm when he studies a case and writes an opinion? So far I haven’t detected one.
When Mario Cuomo was running for president, I kept hearing how he would get a large percentage of the Italian vote. Why? Because he’s Italian! What nonsense. If Cuomo had run for political office in Italy, he would have been just another Italian, and voters would have assessed his candidacy based (mostly) on his political philosophy.
My grandparents were born in Italy and immigrated to the United States. They did not have a good command of the English language. My mother grew up in a three-bedroom house with her 11 brothers and sisters. The boys slept in one bedroom and the girls in another. My wife and I visited my 87-year-old mother over the weekend. Carol had never seen the house where my mother lived as a child. The house is very small. My mother grew up poor and, you could say, disadvantaged. I can remember years ago when she had our next door neighbor in tears as she matter-of-factly told her that she never had a doll. A sad story, but not something to put on her resume if she had been nominated to the Supreme Court. My father’s family was just as poor. One moe thing. My father’s right leg was blown off in Korea and we lived in the projects for a few years after he was discharged from Walter Reed Hospital. Heart renching, maybe, but not relevant when it comes to picking someone for a job as significant as the Supreme Court.
I don’t recall ever hearing my grandparents or my parents saying, “We sure hope we get an Italian on the court. Our lives would be so much better.” Their lives were better because they worked hard even though they started out disadvantaged. Being an immigrant was tough two generations ago. “Dago” and “WOP” were derogatory epithets that they heard often enough. My grandfather changed the family name from DeMario to DeMar. My father, whose birth cirtificate carries the name “Antonio Josephe DeMario,” went by “Tony DeMar.” The goal was to be an American, not a hyphenated American.
Even so, we were Italian thru and thru. Don’t take my comments as a suggestion that our life’s circumstances don’t shape who we are or how we think. Once the black robe is put on the Constitution becomes the standard that should apply equally to all. Justice may be blind, but she’s not to be ignorant of the facts and their application to “the law of the land.” Being a one-legged man, an Italian, a Latino, or a Black woman should make no difference. Making exceptions in one case will lead to exceptions in all cases.
I’m always amazed that it’s the liberals who focus on sex, race, gender, and ethnicity while claiming that we should live in a “colorblind society.” We can’t, because they won’t let us. They continually remind us that we are a “divided country.” Yes, we are, and they are the ones doing the dividing.