Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Tells Tulsa Law Students Race Still Matters in America

Source: /Tulsa World

Sonia Sotomayor’s life could have turned out much differently.
Chances are good she would have still become a lawyer. She says she decided on that by age 10.
But it’s unlikely she would have gone to Princeton and Yale Law, become a prosecutor, a judge and finally an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, had a high school friend not explained a few things to her.
He had gone to Princeton, largely through the work of a teacher at their Bronx high school.
“He called me and said, ‘Sonia, come to Princeton. You have to go to an Ivy League school.’
And I said, ‘What’s an Ivy League school?
“I was a good student,” Sotomayor said Wednesday at the University of Tulsa. “But I wouldn’t even have known to apply, because I came from a world where that wasn’t part of the expectations. And that’s true of a lot of kids in a lot of neighborhoods.”
Sotomayor told the story in response to a question about affirmative action from the standing-room-only audience of mostly TU law students and faculty at the Lorton Performing Arts Center.
She did not address specific cases, but did talk about the workings of the court and express general opinions on some subjects — including, most eloquently, the persistence of inequality in American society.
“Without the kind of affirmative action I was a part of, which encouraged institutions to look more widely than they had previously, to identify people with promise, I wouldn’t have even been able to start the race, and I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said.
“We all aspire to a color-blind society,” said Sotomayor, whose sometimes describes herself as “Nuyorican,” or New York-born Puerto Rican. “There is a pull in each of us that wants race not to matter. But the reality is that as much as we wish it away, it makes a difference in society. Society is affected by it at every level.
“So many of my lawyer friends tell me the people they have as clients are people they met at summer camp. Many minorities never have the opportunity for (summer camp). The structure of our society automatically makes race matter.”

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