As an honorary Nuyorican (New York Puerto Rican) and long time activist in the Puerto Rican community, and wife of a Puerto Rican, I’m appalled at the blatant racism of the stepped-up attacks against not only Sonia Sotomayor, but Puerto Ricans, who are US citizens.
As you all know the latest salvos against Sonia Sotomayor concern her seat as a member of the Board of Directors of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (recently renamed Latino Justice PRLDEF). Wingers are spewing tons of misinformation about the organization, and its role in defending Puerto Ricans, and others against systemic discrimination.
Doubtful if the same wingers could get away with such open bashing of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, founded in 1940 by Thurgood Marshall, but since Puerto Ricans are a minority within a minority they have less of a national presence, and far fewer voices to defend them.
Here’s some of the crap from open racists like Pat Buchanan, in his recent spew entitled A Quota Queen for the Court:
After Yale, Sotomayor joined the National Council of La Raza and the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund. Both promote race and ethnic preferences, affirmative action and quotas for Hispanics.
But why should Puerto Ricans like Sotomayor, who were never subjected to slavery or Jim Crow — their island was liberated from Spain in 1898 by the United States — get racial or ethnic preferences over Polish- or Portuguese-Americans?
What is the justification for this kind of discrimination?
Like Lani Guinier, the Clinton appointee rejected for reverse racism, Sonia Sotomayor is a quota queen. She believes in, preaches and practices race-based justice. Her burying the appeal of the white New Haven firefighters, who were denied promotions they had won in competitive exams, was a no-brainer for her.
In her world, equal justice takes a back seat to tribal justice.
Well I suppose this is to be expected from Pat Buchanan whose “tribe” is White Male Republican Elitus (hopefully soon to be extinctus).
But to answer his stupid question, Puerto Ricans who are a “racially mixed” group of American citizens with an Afro-Taino culture, are routinely discriminated against because of their skin color, language, and ethnic nationality. Citizenship is part of Puerto Ricans checkered history of US colonialism, but it is second-class at best.
Self-appointed Wingnut “left-watcher” Matthew Vadum is using his website to launch spurious attacks against Sotomayor and the PRLDEF like this one, Sotomayor’s Radical, Racist Friends at LatinoJustice, which evoke responses like this from his Neandertal readership:
It’s no surprise that Obama would nominate a female racist to the high court. He knows he can’t directly take over the U.S. and make it into a socialist paradise without the help of the courts. His appointments as directors of federal government agencies as well as undersecretaries, all unelected, all reflect his radical leftwing ideology. Filling his administration with people who will do the dirty work for him while he is out there lying is how dictators control the masses. He has studied and learned well from his terrorist, radical, ultra-leftwing, hate-America, Communist/Socialist/Marxists friends, associates, and mentors.
Let’s talk about the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, their history, and why they were a much needed organization to defend Puerto Ricans, who currently number close to 7 million folks total.
In 1972, when the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund began its work, Puerto Ricans had no voice and were almost totally excluded from participating in public life. From the courts to town councils, from boardrooms to classrooms, Puerto Ricans were simply invisible.
Three young attorneys- Jorge Batista, Victor Marrero and Cesar A. Perales-decided to establish an organization that could challenge the nation’s barriers and provide Latinos with the legal resources to overcome the obstacles that frustrated their dreams and limited their lives. In 1972, in a non-descript office on Second Avenue, PRLDEF was born.
The organization went on to address two key areas of discrimination against Puerto Ricans in NYC – education and policing.
During the 1970s, non-English speaking students were basically ignored by school officials. There were no school programs for non-English speakers, no bi-lingual classes and very few teachers who could communicate with non-English speakers. Aspira, the youth education and development organization, approached LatinoJustice PRLDEF seeking help in forcing the city to educate those Puerto Rican youths who spoke mostly Spanish.
PRLDEF’s first lawsuit, Aspira v. New York City Board of Education, resulted in the ground-breaking Aspira Consent Decree which forced the school system to stop ignoring the needs of non-English speaking students and implement bilingual education techniques to effectively instruct these students. The decree also opened the door for many Spanish speaking teachers, who the city was forced to hire to meet the needs of their growing non-English population. LatinoJustice PRLDEF successfully built upon this decree and secured this right for Latino children in more places such as the Patchogue-Medford School District and Philadelphia.
My mom taught school in NY during the 50’s and 60’s, and I taught at East Harlem Prep in the early 70’s. During those times you could not even use ANY Spanish in the classroom, even to say to a kid “C.A.T.” = Gato.
Policing was also major issue. Many of you may remember West Side Story, and Officer Krupke, but I grew up hanging out with cousins who lived in “Spanish Harlem” or El Barrio, as it was called, where the Spanglish word for “police” was “La Jara”. This term came from the daily reality of Puerto Rican lives where the cop on the beat was Irish, often “O’Hara”, and it became “O’Jara” when it had a latino tone. Many Puerto Rican men, and women served honorably in the US military but were not eligible for jobs in the NYPD based on height restrictions.
In 1972, white men dominated New York City ‘s police force. Today, anyone who walks down the streets of New York cannot help but notice the number of Latinas and Latinos patrolling our neighborhoods. In two class action suits against the New York City Police Department, LatinoJustice PRLDEF was able to get the courts to force the department to institute fair hiring and promotional practices which increased the number of Latino officers and sergeants.
As the nation’s population of folks with a Latino heritage grows, though the largest group is those who are Mexican-American or Chicano/Tejano, Puerto Ricans are the second largest, and no longer simply concentrated in New York.
…as this new century began, the growth of the Puerto Rican population in the United States (outside of Puerto Rico) was such there has been much speculation about its size relative to that of Puerto Rico. According to the latest figures available from the Census Bureau (unpublished data from their Current Population Survey [CPS]), the Stateside Puerto Rican population in 2003 was estimated at 3,855,608. (Census Bureau 2003)
On the other hand, in 2003, the Census Bureau
estimated that the total population of Puerto Rico was 3,878,532. The 2000 Census count found that the Puerto Rican portion of the Island’s population was 95.1 percent of the total (other Latinos made up another 3.4 percent, and non-Latinos made up an additional 1.2 percent). (Census Bureau 2001: 4) By applying this percentage, we estimate that in 2003 the Island’s population that identified itself as Puerto Rican was 3,692,362. If the CPS estimate is correct for the Stateside Puerto Rican population, then by 2003 the Puerto Rican population in the U.S, for the first time, exceeded that on the Island – It did so by 163,246 persons, making it 4.4 percent larger.
US-PuertoRicans.org has a wonderful interactive map of the current distribution of Puerto Ricans in the States, as well as on the island.
Hey, there are even 2,649 in Alaska (I’m sure they are relieved their Gov has quit).
I applaud the efforts of Puerto Ricans across the US, to fight to both maintain their heritage and contribute to the richness of American culture. I ask you all to join me in speaking out against not only the attacks against Sonia Sotomayor, but the ignorance surrounding the plight of a diverse sector of the American community; my beloved Boricuas.
Tengo Puerto Rico en mi Corazon (I have Puerto Rico in my heart)
Pa’lante (Right On!)
(cross posted at Daily Kos)