One of my readers hipped me to “La Raza”, while commenting on my recent post on Judge Sotomayor- stating that she is a member of this particular group.
I didn’t know anything about the organization, and promised to research both the group and the judge’s alleged ties to it.
What I learned, not surprisingly, is that what’s often thought to be common knowledge isn’t always accurate information.
How dangerous misinformation can be.
First of all, let’s talk about that which cannot be disputed. La Raza is a Latino organization that currently operates in the U.S., and is active in 41 states. It’s a relatively large group, with over 300 local-level affiliated groups that are under the La Raza umbrella.
Officially known as the National Council of La Raza, its website claims that as “the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, NCLR works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans”. To meet its objective, La Raza gives a latin prospective via applied research, focusing on five areas: assets/investments, civil rights/immigration, education, employment and economic status, and health.
Founded in 1968, the group claims to be a private, tax-exempt, non-partisan organization that is headquartered in Washington, DC.
Now, on to a couple of misconceptions.
Some people have a lot of negative feelings about this organization, as obviously, being hispanic in nature, there is the perception that La Raza is an open-borders advocate, or a lobby group for illegal aliens. The organization has been bastardized, based on inaccurate data.
An opinion is an important thing to have, and as free-thinking Americans, our opinions will not always gel with one anothers’.
It is inconscionable, however, to base one’s opinions on something that isn’t even true.
La Raza, according to its website, does not support a United States of America that has open borders. They absolutely recognize- and support- this country’s right, as a sovereign nation, to control its borders. In fact, in 2005, the National Council of La Raza supported, in partnership with such Republicans as John McCain (R-AZ) , Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act. This bill, among other things, provided for the stronger enforcement of labor and immigration laws. It was to help secure our borders while keeping America safe in the process.
The organization certainly supports immigration reform, but it just as fiercely advocates for a strong enforcement program as well. The group has never condoned the act of illegally crossing the United States of America’s borders.
Another misconception about La Raza is its name, and what it translates to mean. Many people claim the name means “The Race”, which understandably makes quite a few folks uncomfortable. A white organization would get ten different kinds of hell, were it named “The Race”, most especially if a Supreme Court nominee were rumored to be a member.
Can you imagine?
La Raza, however, does not mean “The Race”- this is merely a loose and factually inaccurate translation- but rather, “The People” or “The Community”. Certainly “The People” has a much less Hitler-esque tone, and suddenly, the group doesn’t seem quite so threatening anymore.
Hispanics, if we are honest with ourselves, do not have an easy time in America. Obviously it is not impossible to be both hispanic and successful, much like one can be black and successful, but like many other minorities, Latinos do face a certain amount of bigotry, unfair stereotypes and all-out hatred. La Raza tries to make these speedbumps a little more manageable, fighting to make sure Hispanics are afforded the same opportunities as non-minorities (translation: white people).
Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, is a memberof the National Council of La Raza.
Some people act as if we should be shocked by this, but realistically, looking at Sotomayor’s history, along with La Raza’s stated mission, it all becomes quite understandable.
Not only that, but it isn’t a negative thing in the least.
Sonia Sotomayor, daughter to Puerto Rican parents, was born and raised in New York- in the Bronx- in a public housing project. She knows poverty and discrimination first hand, as the recipient of what amounted to two strikes against her- being both poor and hispanic. This did not make for an easy go of things. Yet she chose not to use her economic status (or lack thereof) or her race as an excuse to fail. Instead, she chose to thrive, putting herself through college and law school- Ivy League, no less- ultimately graduating from both Princeton and Yale, serving as editor of the Yale Law Review to boot.
Keep in mind, this was no trust fund baby. She did it the old-fashioned way, with her own blood, sweat and tears.
Learning of Sotomayor’s background and the adversity she has managed to overcome, it is anything but surprising to learn that she is a member of an organization whose entire purpose is to protect the civil rights and improve the quality of life of Latinos throughout America.
After law school, Judge Sotomayor went on to become the Assistant Attorney General for the city of New York, ran her own private practice for several years, and (due to then-President George H.W. Bush’s nomination), served on the bench for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The Clinton Administration later nominated her to sit on the federal bench at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd District.
The woman is on fire, and has managed to successfully navigate not one, but two Senate Confirmation hearings, after having been nominated for bench positions by two different presidents- both a Democrat and a Republican.
Recently a group of Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich, have accused Judge Sotomayor of reverse discrimination, claiming she’s racist, and therefore should not be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. Their claims are based on a something the judge said in 2001, while speaking to The University of California Berkley’s School of Law. She said at that time, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”
Apparently, the fact that Sotomayor admits that she believes her personal life experiences make her a better judge, is offensive to some. The hypocrisy lies in the fact that Justice Samuel Alito, during his own Supreme Court confirmation hearings, said the same exact thing– only about himself, of course- and these same Republicans didn’t bother blinking an eye.
Of course, when Alito said it, we called it “empathy in judging”.
With Sotomayor, it’s racism.
I guess it’s only a problem when the statement is made by a liberal.
The GOP wasn’t terribly concerned about her qualifications when they confirmed her in the past- twice- but now, suddenly, she’s a racist.
Ah, hypocrisy at its finest.
Though without it, I would have nothing to write about, so onward we go.
I’m not saying we should all welcome Judge Sonia Sotomayor with open arms. Legitimate questions still need to be asked, more information needs to be had. I stated in my previous post, for example, that I am a little leary of her Catholic background and how that may (or may not) translate to her decisions on such topics as abortion, gay rights and stem cell research.
In many ways, the jury is still out.
None of that, however, lessens the importance of committing to forming educated opinions based on fact. My ultimate opinion of President Obama’s nominee may or may not be a popular one, but I take comfort in knowing that my decision will be based on fact and not fear, conjecture or rumor.
Hopefully, all of you will be able to say the same, when that time comes.