Sotomayor, Supreme Court and Spindoctors

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.

*Shudder*

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.

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10 thoughts on “Sotomayor, Supreme Court and Spindoctors

  1. I’m glad you looked into the organization. You are correct in mentioning that there are many smaller organizations which fall under La Raza. You where also correct in repeating their stated goals as posted on their web site. The smaller groups under their umbrella ia where the controvery is. Some of these organization do not fall in line with La Raza the organization and their stated goals. For instance Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, or Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan (MEChA).

    “For La Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada.”
    This is straight from the official MEChA sites at Georgetown University, the University of Texas, UCLA, University of Michigan, University of Colorado, University of Oregon, and many other colleges and universities around the country.

    MEChA is a movement that teaches that Colorado, California, Arizona, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon and parts of Washington State make up an area known as “Aztlan” — a fictional ancestral homeland of the Aztecs before Europeans arrived in North America. As such, it belongs to the followers of MEChA. These are all areas America should surrender to “La Raza” once enough immigrants, legal or illegal, enter to claim a majority, as in Los Angeles. The current borders of the United States will simply be extinguished.

    This plan is what is referred to as the “Reconquista” or re-conquest, of the Western U.S.

    But it won’t end with territorial occupation and secession. The final plan for the La Raza movement includes the ethnic cleansing of Americans of European, African, and Asian descent out of “Aztlan.”

    As Miguel Perez of Cal State-Northridge’s MEChA chapter has been quoted as saying: “The ultimate ideology is the liberation of Aztlan. Communism would be closest [to it]. Once Aztlan is established, ethnic cleansing would commence: Non-Chicanos would have to be expelled — opposition groups would be quashed because you have to keep power.“

    I honestly don’t understand where you are getting your information on the translation of La Raze. It means The Race plain and simple. If it where the group, it would translate El Grupo. The people would be, la gente.

    Now I doubt Sotomayor has anything to do with these fringe groups. The fact of the matter is that those fringe groups where the ones responsible for all the controversy of the protest not to long ago. The Reconquista banners and the Mexican flags all over. It was La Raza that quickly put a stop to the massive amount of Mexican flag waving and all of the reconquista talk then, quickly replaced them with American flags and took back control of the protest they organized. They recognized real quick the back lash these smaller groups would cause and tried to mitigate the damage.

    So I would say that in conclusion, she is not directly associated with those fringe groups but, it will be made to look that way. The administration picked her and at first it seems like a genious move on their part but, she may be to controversial to make it in. I don’t fault her for being a member of La Raza due to her background. I fault La Raza for not keeping those protest in check, now it may come back to haunt them.

    1. Hey there SpiritOfTruth,

      As always, thanks for weighing in.

      I absolutely agree with you- MECha is a dangerous organization, and one that I actually came across when researching La Raza, and Sotomayor’s ties to them.

      First of all, to answer to your inquiry as to where I got the translation of “La Raza” to “The People” or “The Community”, it came directly from the NCLR’s website:

      “Many people incorrectly translate our name, “La Raza,” as “the race.” While it is true that one meaning of “raza” in Spanish is indeed “race,” in Spanish, as in English and any other language, words can and do have multiple meanings. As noted in several online dictionaries, “La Raza” means “the people” or “the community.” Translating our name as “the race” is not only inaccurate, it is factually incorrect. “Hispanic” is an ethnicity, not a race. As anyone who has ever met a Dominican American, Mexican American, or Spanish American can attest, Hispanics can be and are members of any and all races.

      The term “La Raza” has its origins in early 20th century Latin American literature and translates into English most closely as “the people” or, according to some scholars, as “the Hispanic people of the New World.” The term was coined by Mexican scholar José Vasconcelos to reflect the fact that the people of Latin America are a mixture of many of the world’s races, cultures, and religions. Mistranslating “La Raza” to mean “the race” implies that it is a term meant to exclude others. In fact, the full term coined by Vasconcelos, “La Raza Cósmica,” meaning the “cosmic people,” was developed to reflect not purity but the mixture inherent in the Hispanic people. This is an inclusive concept, meaning that Hispanics share with all other peoples of the world a common heritage and destiny.

      And this is not just NCLR’s interpretation. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, “La Raza” means:

      “…Mexicans or Mexican Americans considered as a group, sometimes extending to all Spanish-speaking people of the Americas.”
      Furthermore, MSNBC’s online Spanish-English website, Encarta, translates the term this way:

      “Hispanic Spanish-speakers in the Americas: Mexicans, Mexican Americans, or Spanish-speaking people of the Americas, considered as a group.”

      The Free Dictionary, available online, similarly finds that the term “La Raza”:

      “…embodies the notion that traditional, exclusive concepts of race and nationality can be transcended in the name of humanity’s common destiny.” “

      Moving on, it must be noted that MECha, while claiming to be connected to La Raza, is in no way affiliated with the National Council of La Raza. La Raza makes this clear on their website, stating, “NCLR has never supported, and does not support, separatist organizations. Some critics have accused MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán or Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán) of being a separatist organization and denounced NCLR for being a purported “major funder” of the organization. The reality is that in 2003, NCLR provided one chapter of the organization (Georgetown University) with a $2,500 subgrant to support a conference of Latino students—mainly from the Southwest and West Coast—who were attending East Coast colleges but could not afford to travel home for Thanksgiving”.

      The website goes on to state, “NCLR freely acknowledges that some of (MECha’s) founding documents, e.g., Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, contain inappropriate rhetoric, and NCLR also acknowledges that rhetoric from some MEChA members has been extremist and inflammatory… NCLR has publicly and repeatedly disavowed this rhetoric as we have others that we believe are inappropriate, as we did when we criticized a pro-separatist Latino website for its racist and anti-Semitic views”.

      MECha, for the sake of popularity, and to assist it in its attempts to be viewed as a “legitimate” organization, has falsely claimed an association to La Raza.

      La Raza, unfortunately, has been caught in the crosshairs, and does not share MECha’s warm and fuzzy feelings.

      Most importantly, given the topic at hand, it has never even been hinted at that Judge Sotomayor has any ties to this group. I know you are not making baseless accusations, but it’s likely a matter of time before others will, and that is the type of misinformation I fear.

      MECha is a dangerous, radical group… but it is not in any way affiliated with or supported by La Raza or Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

      Simply because MECha would have us believe they are thick as thieves with NCLR does not make it so.

      Regardless, SpiritOfTruth, thank you for giving me another avenue to research. You are always good for challenging the ol’ C-Haze, and for keeping me honest!

      For that you are greatly appreciated.

  2. One correction on my part.
    “But it won’t end with territorial occupation and secession. The final plan for the La Raza movement includes the ethnic cleansing of Americans of European, African, and Asian descent out of “Aztlan.”

    It is not the La Raza movements stated goal, it is MEChA goal.

  3. On a side note, Puerto Rico has more veterans per every 1,000 residents then any other state or territory in the union. Many people forget that the entire world south of the border is very large and there are very large differences in culture.

  4. I was interested to see if you would take that approach with finding the meaning. You are correct. 😉 Thank you for understanding I wasn’t making the accusations. I’m simply bringing some things to light that I know are going to play on on stage soon. Just keeping ya on your toes. 🙂

    1. Well, like I said, SpiritOfTruth- It’s important to have you around, keeping me honest!!

      I am a research junkie… I love researching stuff like La Raza… anything really. As long as I can sink my teeth into it then it’s fair game.

      I am, however, human, just like everyone else. It’s easy sometimes to take the easy way out and tout the “liberal line”, as that’s what I tend to be anyway- liberal.

      It’s nice to have someone out there holding me accountable. My opinions, like anyone else’s, are never right or wrong- they’re simply mine. It’s important, though, to be able to stand on my own 2 feet.

      As long as the research is my own, I know I can stand on my own to defend whatever conclusion I may come to.

      It isn’t always the easy thing to do, but it is right.

      If I were ever to run for office (GOD FORBID) I’d appoint you as my “Accountability Czar”.

      Yeah.

      I just made that position up.

  5. LOL, Accountability Czar. That’s a good one on many levels. I usually eat people up when they don’t know their subject matter. Thats why I drop in here every now and then for a real challenge. I’ll admit when there is a gotcha moment and my argument is weak. Good job researching that so fast.

  6. While I agree that the significance of most of her affiliations are overblown (isn’t everything in politics)… The term “La Raza” does indeed translate to the english “race.” At least according to a few translation sites like – dictionary.reference.com/translate?query=la+raza&src=es&dst=en&v=1.0 – and that organization does only promote one race. I do understand how some people might say this makes it difficult for her to represent all Americans. Do we really want to take chances with one of the most important posts in our country?

    1. Hi Tony-

      After thoroughly researching both La Raza and Judge Sotomayor, I can honestly say yes.

      This is a risk I am more than willing to take.

      Here are some other American translations of the words “La Raza”:

      According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, “La Raza” means:

      “…Mexicans or Mexican Americans considered as a group, sometimes extending to all Spanish-speaking people of the Americas.”
      Furthermore, MSNBC’s online Spanish-English website, Encarta, translates the term this way:

      “Hispanic Spanish-speakers in the Americas: Mexicans, Mexican Americans, or Spanish-speaking people of the Americas, considered as a group.”

      The Free Dictionary, available online, similarly finds that the term “La Raza”:

      “…embodies the notion that traditional, exclusive concepts of race and nationality can be transcended in the name of humanity’s common destiny.” “

  7. Pretty cool post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say
    that I have really liked reading your blog posts. Anyway
    I’ll be subscribing to your blog and I hope you post again soon!

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