Archive for Latino Pride

The Supreme Court Needs Diversity

President Obama’s historic nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the supreme court is a positive step for our country. From what I have read, Sotomayor’s life plays as one of the most inspiring Latino success stories; and her accomplishments exemplify what the American dream is all about. However, despite our country’s foundation on diversity, opinions against diversity continue to rule the land. A heated debate is expected to ensue over how her gender and Hispanic heritage could affect her role as a Supreme Court Justice. Critics worry that her background will influence her interpretation of the law. Of course it will. Just as the upbringing of the other Justices shape their own interpretation of the law. How can it not? Am I the only one who finds this whole line of reasoning absurd?

Any person by human nature bases any decision in life on what they know; and what they know comes from their personal education, background, and experiences. This is why very often there are ethnic clashes. Groups of people who share a similar background and upbringing tend to also share a similar point of view on social interactions and behavior. And ethnic groups will be at conflict when they find that what they understand to be true does not correspond with what people in other ethnic segments think and believe. Diversity is key in understanding one another because it brings to light another person’s point of view. We are more likely to educate one another in the presence of diversity and it allows us to place ourselves in somebody else’s shoes. Does it matter when we are talking about a judge who is supposed to only go by the letter of the law? Of course it does!

Judges are constantly called to make interpretations of the law. What is written is not always clear; and sometimes it is not even written at all. A large part of our “laws” are created through the decisions of judges in our rich history of cases. The system works; and case law is proven effective as more and more judges agree in the interpretation an decisions of similar cases. The ultimate court that is called to interpret the law is, of course, the United States Supreme Court. A case does not make it to the supreme court when the law is clear. The Supreme Court is always called to render an interpretation- an opinion. How can a Justice of the Supreme Court render an Opinion without using their cognitive thinking? And how does anyone do that without relying on what they know? They do; of course, and their background and upbringing is always there backing up every opinion.

When I hear that people do not want a Latino Justice because she may be biased by her gender and background, what I hear is that they do not want opinions rendered by Justices who have experienced something other than an Anglo White American upbringing. They are looking for an assimilated background to shape all interpretations. Why are we so afraid of having a perspective that represents so many other Americans in our country? How many Justices grew up in poor neighborhoods? How many had to find a scholarship to make it to law school? How many experienced the struggles that females face in this country to be at an equal stance with males? How many grew up with the difficulties poised by Hispanic discrimination and managed to rise above it all? The Supreme Court, more than any other court in our nation, must benefit from the understanding and clarity that diversity brings!

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We are Hispanics, we are Latinos, we are Americans!

I am proud to be Latino, or Hispanic, or whatever you want to call me. A while back I wrote a booklet that was intended to help new Latino immigrants. In it I spoke about the importance of embracing our U.S. Hispanic or Latino classification. The name is not really as important as recognizing that we are members of a group of more than 45.5 million people. We are a community that has managed to integrate into the American society while at the same time maintaining our roots and culture. As opposed to other groups of immigrants who previously arrived in the United States, the Hispanic community has not become Americanized in the same way. Many of us feel very proud to have achieved this type of integration.

For many new Latino immigrants to feel Hispanic is also an easy and immediate way of belonging to the American society without repudiating our own culture and heritage. Americans have already accepted Hispanics as members of the American community. In fact, Hispanics are many times recognized simply as an American segment – and not necessarily as foreign. This recognition gives us a feeling of solidarity with the Hispanic community, and at the same time, with the American culture. Hispanics are an “American” minority- and the largest of all minorities at that!

We are Americans! Perhaps the largest obstacle in the search for Latino success in this country is the tendency of Latin Americans to maintain themselves separate from American culture. For those Latin Americans that have become citizens of this country it takes hard work to “feel” American. The interesting thing is that, with the small exception of the Native Americans, all people in the United States are descendants of foreigners. This country was formed with the idea to establish a union based on the diversity of its members. To this day, American coins carry the motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” that is to say, “one made out of many.” We Hispanics are part of the American plurality.

There are several reasons why a number of Latin Americans prefer to maintain segregation from “Americans.” The term “American” carries with it the image of an Anglo-Saxon person of origin. That is one of the reasons why it may be very difficult to be identified as part of the American population. On the other hand, there are also many Latin Americans that are in this country transitorily and think that they will soon return to their native country. They obviously see themselves as citizens of their country of origin and not American. Many others simply refuse to be accepted as Americans. For many Hispanics, to say that they are American signifies the abandonment of their Latino inheritance and roots. Nevertheless, this way of thinking has many drawbacks. Primarily, to be American does not mean that they are blonde and have blue eyes! This should be abundantly clear by now (just look at our President!), but many Latinos still feel that they do not look the part.

As I said before, Hispanics are a segment of the American population. Hispanics live in this country just like any other person. What is important is to recognize that it is not easy to achieve success in the United States while staying segregated from the rest of the country. To do this causes the loss of many opportunities that otherwise would be attainable for all Hispanics. Certainly, this advice is not limited to Latin Americans. Many other minority groups in the United States also maintain segregation from “Americans,” and this causes them the same loss of opportunities.

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