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John Lamb, Published May 27 2009

Local Latinos welcome Sotomayor’s nomination

As a Mexican-American, Abner Arauza always hoped a Latino could achieve one of the highest judiciary positions in the United States but remained skeptical it would happen.

His optimism won out on Tuesday when President Barack Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This is at a level where policy is dealt with,” the associate director of multicultural affairs at Minnesota State University Moorhead said. “It puts her at a level where significant decisions are made that affect all of us.”

Arauza said the nomination is not only significant that Sotomayor is the first nominee of Latin descent, but also a positive role model.

“It’s important for the youth to see people they can relate to, in this case ethnically, are in places they can aspire to,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t realize how important it is we see Latinos in the news in positive roles, as doctors or lawyers or teachers or business people.”

Sonia Hohnadel, a Mexican-American and former Moorhead School Board member, agreed.

“Now we’re finally going to start seeing diversity in our history books,” she said. “Now we’re starting to see people recognize contributions by many people of color… that it’s not just white males who do everything in the United States.”

While Sotomayor’s nomination makes history, it won’t change history, she said.

“There’s so much oppression and so much work that needs to be done in the U.S.A. still, that just having one Latina nominated as Supreme Court Justice will not wipe away a history of oppression with Latinos,” the former migrant seasonal farm worker said.

Still, Hohnadel wants to see Sotomayor judged on her work, not her heritage or her sex.

“I hope people look at people for their experience, for their expertise, for what they’re willing to bring to the table. Not just because they fit in a box,” she said. “I hope people look at her as a person nominated based on her qualifications more so than being a Latina and being a female.”

Readers can reach Forum columnist John Lamb at (701) 241-5533