Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court is a historic milestone for Latinos, but it resonates well beyond Hispanic pride. It is perhaps the most potent symbol yet of a 21st century rapprochement between the U.S.’s two largest minorities, Latino Americans and African Americans, who in the 20th century could be as violently distrustful of each other as blacks and whites were.
After Latinos helped make Barack Obama the U.S.’s first black President by giving him a remarkable 67% of their vote and Obama seemingly returned the favor by selecting (pending her Senate confirmation) the first Latino Supreme Court Justice, decades of friction between the two groups seem to be melting like asphalt on a hot summer day in Sotomayor’s native Bronx. “The symbolism can’t be overstated,” says former New Orleans mayor Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, one of the country’s largest African-American organizations. “There is a much greater sense of solidarity now between the two groups.” Says Fernand Amandi, executive vice president of the Bendixen & Associates public-opinion-research firm in Miami: “Ethnic tensions won’t be ended by one Supreme Court nomination, but the picture of an African-American President standing with a Latina Supreme Court nominee shows the groups coming together at the highest positions in the country. That can’t help but improve relations.”