Linda Chavez

The diversity crowd doesn't really believe in diversity. In fact, what they're really aiming for is conformity of opinion. They expect that members of racial and ethnic groups will adhere to liberal orthodoxy, and woe to those who don't fall into line. If Judge Sotomayor were a conservative or the nominee of a Republican president, we'd be hearing that she wasn't an "authentic" Latina at all.

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I recall similar arguments used by my critics when I was the first Latina nominated to a U.S. Cabinet back in 2001. You're only celebrated as the "first" by the diversity crowd when you're the first Democrat. Just ask Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Spencer Abraham, Elaine Chao, Bobby Jindal, or Michael Steele.

As someone whose profession entails having opinions, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised by how often I've been asked what I think about Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court. What is surprising, however, is that many of those asking the question seemed less interested in my analysis of the judge's judicial record than in whether I felt any special pride in her appointment because of our shared ethnicity.

I could see their puzzlement as I recounted some of Judge Sotomayor's rulings. I was clearly missing the point of their inquiry: She's an Hispanic woman; I'm an Hispanic woman. We both grew up in disadvantaged circumstances but managed to overcome our humble beginnings. We must be simpatico, right? Wrong.

Apparently it comes as a surprise to some people, but not all Hispanics (or women) think alike. Why should race, ethnicity, gender, or even class determine one's point of view on political or legal issues? What's more, when it comes to Hispanics, there is often not even a single, shared culture that might create a common bond.

As L.A. Times columnist Gregory Rodriguez recently pointed out, most of the people described as Hispanics -- or Latinos, the term Rodriquez prefers -- don't identify with the catch-all term, but think of themselves in terms of their national origin (Mexican, El Salvadoran, Puerto Rican, etc.). Not surprisingly, most immigrants regard their country of origin as important in their identity.

But for most Hispanics who were born in the U.S., our primary identity is as Americans. In the largest poll of its kind in 2002, nearly 60 percent of third-generation Hispanics used the term "American" as either the only or first term to describe themselves, and 97 percent said they use American to identify themselves at least some of the time.


Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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