How do two affirmative action babies raise their own baby?

The confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor have mostly focused on race and how she may or may not allow her Latinidad to impact her judicial rulings on the Supreme Court. Today Linda Chavez, Chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and regular on FOX News, took the cake. But they have also highlighted something that's been picking at me since becoming a mom.

First, much of the conversation supporting Sotomayor is about her struggle, not her excellence and intellect. It has focused on her being woman who was raised in a housing project and struggled to succeed. This theme has been repeated many times before in relation to people of color. I have also received praise for the road I traveled to go from working class kid to the middle class grrl I am today. Does this mean that my daughter, who will have two parents who went to college, won't be praised when she graduates from college in 20 years? Will her struggle be less because we worked hard to give her a head start? I, like Sotomayor, am an affirmative action baby.

I'm fairly certain that my working class neighborhood was tacked on to the affluent school district in order to comply with desegregation issues. The map is so gerrymandered that it's funny. That is affirmative action right there. My mom made it clear that it was and that we, my sisters & I, had better take advantage of it. And we did. By living where we did, we had access to classes that weren't offered in the high school the kids up the street attended. Linda Chavez's comments today made it clear that she believes that those of us who benefit from affirmative action didn't earn what we have today.

This all leaves me wondering where does that leave my daughter? She is clearly privileged by our hard work. But that does not guarantee her success. It also doesn't guarantee that others will look at her with color-blind eyes. My husband & I still need to dress up at certain department stores to receive polite service.

In the end Latinas like Sotomayor, Chavez and myself all have one thing in common - we look like Latinas*. That means we get judged as soon as someone sees us. For Chavez she uses that to peddle her right-wing conservative views. The market for that was huge when she started decades ago. For Sotomayor, she is embracing the opportunity to be a role model for young Latinas still in public housing and my daughter. But she is also like me, we're still reinforcing our accomplishments because someone one will take one look at us and think, "Oh, another affirmative action baby." And to that i say, "Damn straight."

*That's not to say that other Latinas have it easy. Just a recognition that those of us who look Latina have certain stereotypes thrust on us.

by Veronica Arreola
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Professional feminist, former Bitch Media board member, mom, and writer. Creator of #365FeministSelfie.

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3 Comments Have Been Posted

"The confirmation hearings

"The confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor have mostly focused on race and how she may or may not allow her Latinidad to impact her judicial rulings on the Supreme Court".

I think thats pretty sad. So what if she does? It's a step up from affluent white men looking out for affluent white men. And I don't think that just because she isn't a white man which, which apparently is the norm, that that will make her any more biased then anyone else. If anything her struggle would probably serve as an asset to recognize inequality and biases.
Its about time the other half of America was represented in some form. And as latina woman, I am very proud.

I get where you're coming

I get where you're coming from, but technically, it would be a problem if she did directly "allow her Latinidad to impact her judicial rulings on the Supreme Court." As I understand it, to do so would be in violation of her responsibility as a Supreme Court Judge to rule impartially and interpret the constitution. So, in this case, I don't agree it's neutral or positive for Sotomayor to bring a Latina bias, but I agree with you that it's ridiculous to assume that white men don't struggle with white-man bias. And, I agree that diversity on the court is a good thing.

I am bothered by the racism in this case that comes in because people assume that because she is proud to be a Latina and is vocal about that, that she won't be able to rule impartially when called upon to do so. It's pretty racist and sexist for people to assume she doesn't possess the intelligence and rationality to do this. It's also pretty racist and sexist (as you are pointing out) to assume that white men don't have this problem - as if they don't have a race or gender that ever influences their decisions.

I think it's a dirty trick by those who have tried to paint her gender/race pride as racism something akin to white male gender/race pride. White male pride is not a theoretically bad thing; it's a real historical, violence-oriented bad thing.

Latino stereotype???

Latinos are the ones creating the stereotype--I went to a high school in the San Joaquin Valley in the 70's and I can tell you the stereotype came from what the hell the Latino's where doing--it seems like less than 20% of Latino's in America are acting like American citizens being a part of the wheel instead of feeding off of it-practicing birth control-speaking english, attending college, holding jobs, creating businesses--the American Dream is for all who wish to truly be an American--not for the half-hearted here to see what they can get for free and send back to Mexico--if Mexico wants the US to support its population then Mexico needs to beg to be part of the US--this arrogant attitude with the hand out is truly what causes most of the bad feelings towards Latino's--It seems that Latino's kind of like to hide behind that "victim" status all the time--you are only a victim if you want to be.

I am sick of the victim, stereotype, and continual harping of racism of latinos by whites--many whites lost everything and their lives in the Civil War to protect Blacks right to be free--don't hear their names during black history month --do we?? and now a black man is in the white house voted in mostly by white voters--oh we are so racist--OMG! cut the crap and the "stereotypes that are pushed on us" bull--Walk into any welfare office or disability office in this nation and take a look--if 80% of the people there were not Hispanic --asking for money with 5 kids in tow, a pregnant wife and girlfriend and any girls over 15 pregnant--there would not be a stereotype for others to relay.But that this is exactly what you see in the welfare office--if it wasn't true then why do you have to speak spanish to work in these places--Huh? why are all the signs in these offices in spanish--think about it--supply and demand--not a stereotype--these conditions are real and effect all of us in America as it is our tax dollars being absorbed by another countries inability to take care of their own--why isn't Mexico blamed in this mess--if they had their s@!# together--Americans would be defecting to mexico--hell the weather is better and there is more tropical coastline--the US pays for Mexico being on its border everyday why not get some benefits of ownership.

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