NEWS BLOG (WSAU) There are two minorities on our U.S. Supreme Court. One, Sonia Sotomayor, is a Latina. The other, Clarence Thomas, is black.
Both have written autobiographies. Sotomayor’s writing is getting much more attention because it was published earlier this month. She is getting very favorable reviews because of her openness about the struggles of her childhood.
She is indeed an American success story. She grew up in a single-parent household. She had personal medical challenges when she was younger. She persevered, got a world class education, and became a person of achievement in adulthood.
If you read her book, it’s also clear that she is a product of affirmative action. Other people – with white skin – had better high school transcripts. Yet she got one of the coveted seats in Princeton’s freshman class. She is unapologetic. Hers is the modern-day view of the types of advantages are okay so long as the recipient makes good use of them. Against that yardstick, this Supreme Court justice is the poster child for how affirmative action is supposed to work. Fair or unfair, she got a leg-up over others because of her ethnicity. She argues that society was paid back through her success and contributions.
Now consider the book Justice Thomas wrote about his own life in 2008: “Racial preference had robbed my achievement of its true value." He graduated with honors from The College of the Holy Cross and Yale Law and came to resent the assumption that he got into and had personal success at elite schools because he’s an African-American. He was as-smart or smarter than his peers. He has a right to be offended when someone presumed that he wasn't.
On this Martin Luther King Day, let’s reflect on the differences. Dr. King’s great dream was that his daughters would one day “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Thomas is there. Sotomayor finds it impossible to imagine her achievements if her race wasn’t front-and-center in her life.