The nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court was an historic and proud moment for Latinos in America. But as proud as our community is over her nomination, we have been stunned and repelled by the visceral reaction it has generated among many in the Republican party.
Rush Limbaugh, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former congressman and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo, and others are claiming that Sotomayor is a "reverse racist." Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies-the "think tank" of white supremacist John Tanton's anti-immigrant groups-and the National Review online attacked Judge Sotomayor for pronouncing her own name correctly.
In an article that appeared in The Hill newspaper, Republican insiders are quoted as being "concerned" that Sotomayor's avowed love of arroz con gandules and other Puerto Rican delicacies will cloud her judicial decision-making. Conservative commentator Debbie Schlussel called Sotomayor "Judge J-Lo" and suggested that she was about as qualified to be on the Supreme Court as the well-known singer.
Clearly judge Sotomayor's ethnicity has proven to be too much of a temptation for those who give voice to hate and extremism. Instead of looking at her judicial record, they have launched a vocal rampage that has reached new heights of absurdity.
In one attack on Judge Sotomayor, Tom Tancredo faulted the Justice nominee for being a member of "La Raza" and likened the organization to a "Latino KKK." The "La Raza" of Tancredo's failed historical analogy is actually National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States.
His and others' attitudes are offensive, shameful, and a slap in the face, not only to dedicated NCLR staff and partner organizations, but to Raul Yzaguirre, former President of NCLR, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to secure civil rights for all Americans. Raising questions and concerns about Judge Sotomayor's 17-year record on the bench is legitimate. Resorting to outdated stereotypes, defamation of character, and outright falsehoods is not.
Republican party leaders must denounce the extremist rhetoric surrounding the nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.
While we applaud Senator John Cornyn's call for civility, these gross mischaracterizations of Judge Sotomayor coupled with the deafening silence of the Republican leadership are leaving many within our community with a disturbing picture of the Republican party. Party leaders need to understand that much hangs in the balance here, including the Latino vote.
NCLR has released a petition asking Republicans to restore the debate to a more appropriate level of civil discourse. In just one week, the petition has already gathered over 3,000 signatures.
We are calling on Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele, House Minority Leader John Boehner, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to stand up to the extremists. Stand up for your party. Stand up for what is best in America. We are better than this. The Republican party is better than this.
We ask you to sign your voice to this petition and help us send a strong, loud message to the Republican party today.