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May 29th, 2009
11:25 AM ET

Sonia Sotomayor and the case against coconuts

Rachel Campos-Duffy
AC360° Contributor

When I was a young co-ed at Arizona State University, my sister was the president of the College Republicans. I was her secretary. As the daughters of a Catholic, Reagan democrat, military man, our party affiliation was not all that surprising. However, the fact that our father also happened to be Mexican-American, was the source of much consternation among ASU’s race-based campus crowd.

When we manned our Republican recruitment booth by the Memorial Union or attended events with conservative speakers, our liberal (and largely Hispanic) detractors called us “coconuts” – you know, brown on the outside, white on the inside. Never mind that many of the Mecha and La Raza students who were doing the name-calling couldn’t speak a lick of Spanish (my sister and I have near native command of the language), or that their understanding of Mexican culture was limited to Taco Bell and low-rider vehicles (which they displayed on the main campus lawn in honor of Hispanic "Cultural" Awareness Week).

For conservative minorities, especially conservative minority women, Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination and the warnings from the left not to “bully” her are a reminder of the double standard with which we live out our social and political lives. The recognition that there are two separate rulebooks for minorities: one for liberals and one for conservatives. In the liberal rulebook, whites must be sensitive and considerate of a minority’s life story and the unique obstacles he or she faced and/or overcame. In the conservative rulebook, well, there really is no rulebook because there are no rules. It’s always open season on conservative minorities.

Where were the cries for respect and sensitivity to compelling personal stories when Clarence Thomas or Miguel Estrada were being skewered? Where were all of the glowing stories, Oprah appearances, and magazine covers for the always elegant, eloquent (did I mention fit?) ,Condoleezza Rice, America’s first female Black Secretary of State?

Last year, at the height of Palin bashing, Asian-American conservative Michelle Malkin said: “liberals have a tendency to infantilize, sexualize, demonize and dehumanize conservative women. It's astounding how intolerant liberals are of jokes about liberal women, and yet they'll say, or at least tolerate the most bawdy, degrading and patronizing things about conservative women."

When conservative Linda Chavez accepted an invitation to speak at ASU, the race-based crowd turned out in full force. They protested, heckled, and held up signs that said “Ni Linda es la Chavez”. The demeaning signs and jeers Chavez graciously endured that evening at ASU was a warning for the young, conservative minority women in attendance – a harbinger of the double standard we would have to endure if we continued to speak up for what we believe. Fifteen years later, I refuse to be silenced by those who demand that my race should determine my views or political affiliation. I may be brown on the outside, but on the inside, I’m all American.

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Dan K

    Home run Rachel!!! Group politics has tattered and weakened the very fabric of our nation. We need to stop assigning people political agendas based on their ethnicity.

    June 1, 2009 at 9:14 am |
  2. Lampe

    Let me get this right. Republicans, are not supposed to bad-mouth, or bash Sotomayor, but Democrats, could and did and still do bad-mouth and bash Gov. Palin. And, not only did they do that to a Republican women, they did it to HRC, who is a Democrat. The Dems, need to STOP all this , "If you don't vote for all of them, a Republican will never be elected anything ever again." Equal means Equal for all, not it's only Equal if your a Democrat.

    May 29, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  3. Melissa

    Very well put Rachel. I too am a proud Conservative, Catholic, Republican and Hispanic woman. I believe your message goes way past the issue of sonia Sotomayor. The truth about the double standard rang loud and clear this past election. I just keep praying that we can bring morality and accountablity back into government. It scares me to see how much this government is leaning to left.

    May 29, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  4. Cathy

    Well written, Rachel. Latinos come in all shapes and sizes, and it's annoying when they're summed up in convenient little sound bites on the news. I think Sonia Sotomayor is a great choice, but it has nothing to do with my race or ethnicity. I'm an American with my own grown up thoughts and views. Thanks for pointing that out to the masses. Someone had to do it!

    May 29, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  5. Mike in NYC

    @Mari:

    The illegitimacy rate among Hispanics - who I'm aware are not a monolithic group - is around fifty percent. Their rate of teenage pregnancy is over fifty percent. Daddy or no daddy present, that's not good.

    Your unoriginal quip about "white rich old men" is every bit as obnoxious as anything I've heard come from a GOP-er. Whatever their faults, they got 55% of the White vote in the last Presidential election, so their base is a bit broader than you think. The problem is that the GOP will eventually throw their White base under the bus in a vain attempt to pick up non-White votes.

    May 29, 2009 at 11:50 am |
  6. Kim

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. Conservative women have been so marginalized as irrelevant or "nonexistent" – particularly after Pres. Bush's "failure" to promote a qualified conservative female justice to the Court and the "Palin-effect" – it is encouraging to hear your voice.

    May 29, 2009 at 11:10 am |
  7. Jessica

    Bien Dicho! (Well Said!) If this is the only meat the Republican's have to serve, they will be shredded pork in my taco....the fastest growing population in the United States are latinos and the faces at the top will be changing. All I can say is "Get used to it!" You can not repress a people especially when it comes to some of us who really buy the whole "You can be anything you want to be, if you set your mind to do it." This is what it means to be AMERICAN in the land of opportunity.

    May 29, 2009 at 11:07 am |
  8. Mari

    @ Mike in NYC..... I must mention that the rate of out-of-wedlock births are much lower in Latino families. And Latino families are more likely than African-American families to have a Dad present in the family.
    As a Cuban-American I know a little something about Latino culture.

    I agree with your statement about your doubt that the GOP will attract many Latinos or Blacks. For quite some time now the GOP have obviously become the party of "white-rich-old-men".

    But, Mike, here's why I am no longer a Republican, I can not stomach their vile rhetoric. The campaigns of 2008, sealed it for me! The Democrats have their problems, but I'd rather vote Democrat than reward the vitriolic GOP any time!

    May 29, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  9. Mike in NYC

    I agree about the double standards, but let's face it, there just aren't that many conservative blacks and Hispanics, in the sense of wanting smaller government. That view is much more common among Whites. Also, their high rates of out-of-wedlock births and absentee fathers are hard to reconcile with a socially conservative outlook. The GOP is going to move away from favoring smaller government to advocating "smarter" government, as part of their "minority outreach." I doubt it will attract many black or Hispanic converts.

    On another note, Condi Rice will not be judged kindly by history. She was a substandard Secretary of State.

    May 29, 2009 at 10:31 am |