Barack Obama’s appointment of Sonia Sotomayor for the United States Supreme Court has touched off a storm of criticism, much of it centering on her statement that a “wise latina” such as herself – apparently she is also humble – is bound to make better decisions than some “white male.” This arrogance alone should nix her chances, but it won’t under current one-party rule. So let Ms. Sotomayor’s act of auto-hagiography provide an occasion to examine the relationship between political correctness and reality.
By the standards of reality and history, there is already a “latino” on the high court. Justice Antonin Scalia is of Italian extraction and “latino,” strictly speaking, derives from the plain of Latium on the Italian peninsula. Madonna, Lee Iacocca, Frank Sinatra, Anabella Sciorra, and many others are all latinos, though political correctness denies them that identity. Actress Laura San Giacomo was once tapped to play Frida Kahlo, whom she strongly resembles, but a cry rang out from the PC benches that a “latina” should get the part. Thus did the actress experience the wrath of political correctness (PC).
PC bears a permanent grudge against such considerations as history and reality. It operates permanently in the subjunctive mood, especially on race/gender/class. In PC parlance, “latino” is a construct of convenience that enables those of European extraction (Despite the politically correct GPS, Spain is part of Europe) to posture as an accredited victim class. In reality, latino does not stand in distinction to “white” because people of white color, including Fidel Castro, make up the vast majority of the Latin American ruling class.
People from Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Honduras and Mexico do not think of them first and foremost as “latinos” but as Colombians, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Hondurans and Mexicans. As Marlon Brando (who once played Emiliano Zapata) said in A Streetcar Named Desire, “people from Poland are Poles.” The only “Caucasians” are people from the actual Caucuses region. Americans should be Americans, but political correctness won’t stand for it.
“Hispanic” is a linguistic term, and like “latino” it does not stand in distinction to “white.” As Richard Rodriguez helpfully points out, there are white Hispanics, mixed race Hispanics, and black Hispanics. PC ignores this entirely in the quest to maximize the contradictions though its race/gender/class dialectic. It gets worse.
When Ms. Sotomayor elevated wise latinas such as herself over those unwise, insensitive white males, she was addressing the twelfth annual symposium of the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal. There is a National Council for this “raza” in Washington, which is interesting. The PC troops deny that this term means “race” in the standard sense. That may have an element of truth, but the “raza” does not seem very inclusive of people with names like Horowitz, Scalia, Glazov, O’Hoolahan, McDonald, Washington, and Kowalski. The Raza-ists seem to be strictly people of Spanish extraction, by way of Spain’s former colonies.
Not much inclusion or diversity there, but that is what PC is about, exclusion, double standards and obscurantism. PC declares people to be non-persons, unqualified to claim their own heritage. This mindset has infected public policy more than we realize. Ancestry in the Philippines, for example gets you Pacific Islander status, but Irish ancestry won’t make anybody an Atlantic Islander on the census form.
Ms. Sotomayor, meanwhile, is billed as a “liberal” but that too misses the mark. Today’s conservatives are really classical liberals, and she’s certainly not that. It doesn’t seem very liberal to side with Big Brother over individuals such as Frank Ricci, the lead plaintiff in the New Haven firefighter case. Sonia Sotomayor is better described as a woman of the left, with delusions of moral superiority based on ethnicity. That’s the profile Barack Obama wants in his robed politburo.