Now that a Wise Latina is a Supreme Court Justice ...

By Marque Jensen 08-10-2009

Early next Saturday morning I will board a plane with my daughter to spend a week in Honduras. While there, we will be coming alongside and under the direction of Hondurans who are developing a free trade coffee co-op to empower their impoverished community. We will also do educational, social, and spiritual outreach as led by our hosts.

I have, in the past, been on similar trips to my adopted community on the fringe of Monterrey, Mexico. My sons and my wife have also participated. From past experiences, I am confident that on this trip my daughter and I will learn lessons from wise Latinas and wise Latinos that we could not have learned from others without similar experiences. The countless lessons I have learned from Latino/as, African-Americans, Hmong, Koreans, Native Americans, Africans, Europeans, and others were specifically rooted in the life experiences they had had.

I congratulate our newest Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. However, I was frustrated listening to all the controversy that arose from some who wished to conserve the old order of things. As a European-American "white" male I wondered, "Why were so many white males so threatened by the thought that someone other than them might come up with a 'better' conclusion?" Looking over the history of the court I can see plenty of times when various backgrounds might have helped this country avoid some of its horrible mistakes.

Perhaps a wise Latina could have offered the court a dissenting voice on the Indian removal acts. I'm sure a wise Latina would have viewed the Dred Scott case differently. I even believe a wise Latina could have helped some white men better understand the real issues of sex, pregnancy, and parenthood in the case of Roe vs. Wade.

I believe the deeper issue is not that Justice Sotomayor said (and even somewhat tongue-in-cheek) that wisdom could come from the experiences of a wise Latina. The deeper issue that chafed so many white men (mostly Rushites) is that her wisdom and experiences could give her better insights, at times, than white males. Those who are used to holding the reigns of control are frequently hostile at the thought of giving up such control.

Now it is true, had a white male said the reverse, it would have been a racist comment and would have blown up in the media. Why? Because that statement would have only supported the racist status quo of the past 220 years of American history. For most of our history it has been tacitly, and explicitly, stated that wisdom to make social and political decisions lies solely in the hands of white men with wealth.

Is it fair that a Latina woman can say something a white man can't?

Let me ask a few deeper questions.

Are we seeking fairness or justice?

For the sake of "justice for all," why should we even care?

I know many of my readers are Christians, so to them I ask: Following the example of Christ, are we not to "lay down" our rights to power in order to empower others with the gift of God's love?

Sometime in order to get to real "fairness" we must first sacrifice some control and seek justice. This is the way of reconciliation and love.

mjensenMarque Jensen and his family have lived on the north side of Minneapolis for 20 years. As an ordained pastor he co-planted and co-led a multi-racial church from 1991 until 2005; he is now part of the pastoral team at Sanctuary Covenant Church and works as a program director for their Community Development Corporation. He also leads the Youth Development and Community Engagement programs that impact their community and is an educator in both middle-school classrooms and suburban churches.

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