Friday, May 29, 2009

Supreme Court Nomination In Black and Brown

When Rush Limbaugh looks at President Obama and Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, he sees a reverse racist nominated by “the greatest living example of a reverse racist.”

Other conservatives view Sotomayor as an affirmative action choice who lacks the intellectual heft for the high court. She’s someone, they say, who believes Latina judges are better than white male judges.

Liberals, on the other hand, herald Obama’s choice as a stroke of political genius and rejoice in the possibility of the first Hispanic female sitting on the bench.

Some political prognosticators speculate that Obama’s nomination of Sotomayor could lock up the Hispanic vote for Democrats for years to come.

But that’s inside baseball.

What I saw when Obama nominated Sotomayor, with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. by his side, was something quite different: Power, and what it increasingly looks like in this country.

By 2050, there will be no outright majority of any one demographic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But 236 million minorities — everyone except for non-Hispanic, single race whites — will be the majority.

The socio-political change such population shifts bring is already starting to manifest itself.

“Seeing Barack Obama and Sonia Sotomayor is more and more what power is going to look like in the future,” said Allert Brown-Gort, associate director of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. “That power, quite naturally, follows demographic changes to a certain extent, but let’s not fool ourselves. The full force of those changes won’t be felt if the laws and rules aren’t in place to let the changes happen.

“Just a couple of months ago they [lawyers and Supreme Court justices] were arguing over the 1965 Voting Rights Act and whether parts of it should be voided,” he said. “This shows us why we have to keep up the fight and can’t take anything for granted, while Obama’s announcement of Judge Sotomayor shows us what is at stake.”

Much attention has focused on the raw distrust between blacks and Hispanic immigrants. Whether it is a tug of war over jobs in New York and parts of the South or turf wars in Los Angeles, many black and brown people have been in a constant fight for the bottom for years.

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