Latinas Discuss Sotomayor's WisdomS

Not surprisingly, to many Latinas, Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina" remark doesn't mean "I am a racist who hates white people." Here's what it does mean.

Sotomayor said in 2001, "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." The LA Times asked several Latinas for their reactions — below, a few excerpts.

Rossana Rosado, Publisher of El Diario:

I think most women in this country embrace the concept that you bring something as a woman that you don't bring as a man. "Better" in the context of that speech was fine. I think surely that if you knew something you said today was going on the record for something very important you were going to do years from now, surely you would say it very differently. But as we have watched a panel of predominantly white men questioning her, it's no surprise that they might be put off by that description.

Maria Elena Durazo, Executive secretary-treasurer, L.A. County Federation of Labor:

For me, a wise Latina means diversity. I think she brings the experiences of people of color, the experiences of families struggling from lower socioecon backgrounds. She brings the experience of overcoming enormous obstacles to go to an Ivy League school and graduate cum laude. It's a very good experience to bring to the judiciary because her background represents more people in this country than the background of those members of the court who come from well-to-do families.

Antonia Hernandez, President and CEO of the California Community Foundation:

Many years ago, one of the first times I went to court, the bailiff stopped me and said, "Excuse me, you belong on the other side with the interpreters." At least he didn't think I was the defendant. You learn survival skills from this kind of experience. You learn how to bridge; you learn how to be entrepreneurial. It's a cliche, but we are framed by our experiences.


Josefina Lopez, Author of Real Women Have Curves and Hungry Woman in Paris:

Many people seem to assume that because Sonia Sotomayor's an ethnic woman, or because of the wise Latina comment, she's going to be biased. That's racist. They're assuming they aren't biased and that she is because she's an ethnic person. All these white men who were on the Supreme Court for the first 200 years were supposed to be impartial and unbiased, but for 200 years they upheld laws that supported segregation and discrimination. You kind of have to laugh.

So when most people in the government are white, relatively well-to-do men, and most people in the country are not, it might be nice to have a Supreme Court justice who has shared some of the struggles of people without much political power? And sharing these struggles doesn't cloud her wisdom, as some Senators seem to suggest, but enhance it? What a concept.

On Sonia Sotomayor: Words From 'Wise Latinas' [LA Times]