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May 29, 2009

Your Turn: Latina Justice


To what extent is this headline a slam, picking up on the wing-nut meme that Sotomayor is a (reverse) racist?

One meaning of the headline speaks to identity and pride: that she’s a Latina and also a potential Justice. Another implication, however, is that Sotomayor — given the infamous quote and now the right-wing meme — will be dispensing “Latina justice.” Is it possible that even the use of the “Latina” label as a label, at this point, conjures the wanna-be controversy? And then, the subhead is interesting too. Obviously Sotomayor would change the court. So, what are they getting at here? (And is TIME, given the third article title, hinting the nomination itself is a “showdown over Affirmative Action?”)

And then, I’m interested in your take on the illustration, and the use of an illustration as opposed to a photograph. Is an illustration more stereotypical in some way? Is this one? Or is there nothing to it?

Although we’ve had plenty of opportunity here to explore subtle and not-so-subtle African-American media stereotypes in the political sphere (case in point), we’ve spent relatively little time looking at the framing of (male or female) Hispanics.

Perhaps this is the true significance of this nomination.

  • maebebaebe

    What strikes me is that I am having a difficult time remembering such an illustration being used for a caucasian on a news magazine cover aside from the New Yorker. Also, the skin tone in the illustration appears darker than any of the various photos of Sotomayor on this site. Illustration in news magazines makes me think of editorial cartoons and makes me think they are attempting to editorialize her nomination in a way that a straightforward smiling photograph would not.

  • paulo

    If I was a right wing mouth breather I’d see this as a bag job. That Latina is pictured as a pleasant and appealing person – obviously non-anglo but then not too foreign either.
    So. What’s the fuss about? That is the question that is the wingers’ worst nightmare.

  • margaret

    The image is wrong. Her skin is lighter and incandescent. She is much “prettier” than the rigid illustration.
    I agree that it is designed to add to right wing anxiety about minorities. Boy, are all those white Republican men be surprised when, in a few years, they are the minority “race.”

  • Aunt Moe

    The illustration is simply wierd. Oddest thing I’ve seen in a long time – almost cartoonish. And certainly strips her of dignity. And that’s what it feels like, they wanted to take away her dignity.

  • DennisQ

    I can almost hear the castanets as I consider what Latina justice might mean. Definitely something foreign. They might as well call it “Salsa justice” or “justicia picante.”
    Either way it certainly presents her as outside the American mainstream. This is one more example of the right’s self-designation as true Americans. Or at least, more American than thou.
    I was hoping not to see this, and perhaps it’s really not how ordinary Americans think. But there’s that chatter of the castanets again.

  • bystander

    This illustration struck me as not particularly Sotomayor; it is, but it also isn’t. She looks younger than the other photographs I’ve seen of her. Her skin is airbrushed and smooth. And, it’s not quite her to me. Something about the eyes. As I stared at it, the image began to seem more like that marketing image that various corporations are beginning to use where they have generated a computer amalgam of multiple racial and ethnic groups. The Time illustration strikes me as a bit stylized and not quite true to the woman.
    I give myself two points for finding this image, and remove two points for not yet figuring out the nuances of photobucket.
    I give myself one point for finding something about the backstory:

    To see the new face of the United States, go to a grocery store and look at a box of Betty Crocker-brand food products. Betty’s portrait is now in its eighth incarnation since the first composite painting debuted in 1936 with pale skin and blue eyes. Her new look is brown-eyed and dark-haired. She has a duskier complexion than her seven predecessors, with features representing an amalgam of white, Hispanic, Indian, African and Asian ancestry.
    A computer created this new Betty in the mid-1990s by blending photos of 75 diverse women. That process was relatively quick, General Mills Inc., spokesmen explain. But they acknowledge that it took quite a while to spread the new image to the whole range of Betty Crocker products.
    The slow pace of that process itself could be a metaphor for gradual racial and ethnic intermixing in this country. Indeed, it’s taking a long time for the new blended American to surface in society’s consciousness. Tiger Woods, the young golf great, publicized the trend by identifying himself as Cablinasian, a mixture of Caucasian, black, Native American and Asian.
    For the most part, the marketplace — not government — is leading the way in this evolution. Mixed-race models, particularly men, are in great demand, according to fashion industry experts. And multiracial child actors are now more likely to be tapped for television advertisements.

  • san antone rose

    The selection and style of the illustration reminds me of the Mexican Calendar Art which basically standardized and romanticized beautiful Mexican ladies (holding fruit baskets, etc.) and lured tourists to Mexico.

  • Braidwood

    I think the mouth in the illustration looks really strange. Try to make that expression. You have to push your bottom teeth against your bottom lip. It makes my face feel angry.
    It looks nothing like the smiles I’ve seen in photographs of Sotomayor.

  • DanM

    The use of an illustration as opposed to a photograph most likely has to do with Supreme Court nominees’ tradition of keeping a low public profile while under consideration — if Time wanted a ‘fresh’ and ‘exclusive’ look for their cover, they had to make it up themselves because Sotomayor has better judgment than to sit for them at this time.
    That said, I think the illustration looks as much like Roseanne Barr as it does Sonia Sotomayor.

  • Lucaites

    Actually, Time does it with some measure of regularity. Two examples would be:,16641,1101041227,00.html,16641,20070917,00.html
    The problem with the image, I think, is noted by San Antone Rose. She is poised and framed as Latina. But, of course, that’s exactly what the administration has done. Indeed, that’s one of the things that makes her desirable — not the only and I don’t mean to say that it trumps intelligence, judgment, etc., but it surely was not unimportant in the decision to nominate her. The difficulty is that the media then have to find a way to visualize that and so what is the easiest thing to do — well, let’s use ready made stereotypes. This stereotype form this form of calendar art (a version, perhaps of the National Geographic aesthetic) is somewhat less pernicious than other choices available, but a sterotype nonetheless, and one that is driven by a “white” sensibility of what a “pretty Latina” might look like.

  • The Rude Dog

    How about a judge who doesn’t lie about their upbringing. have weirdo ethnocentric statements floating around, and seeing that “empathy” is all the rage, has lived a normal life with kids, family, etc…

  • DanM

    (I may regret asking this, but…) Huh?

  • sophronia

    She is obviously qualified for SC Justice. It is too bad that Pres. Obama framed his criteria early on as empathy, and also too bad that Sotomayor’s comments are out there to define her nomination. I think her comment about making wiser decisions because she is Latina has allowed the media to define her this way, instead of as a quaified and experienced nominee. So, by her ill-advised statement made so long ago, the shorthand way of thinking of her is, Latina Nominee with Empathy. It is unfair of course. Those in the media do not provide in-depth coverage, because most of us don’t want to know that much about the issue. It is up to the Obama administratin to define her nomination in other terms, and to do so consistently. It is up to Sotomayor to visit and talk with lawmakers, and then to tesitfy formally about herself and her record. I regard this poor framing of his criteria as a blunder by President Obama, and I’ll bet he doesn’t make the same mistake again.

  • Tena

    They certainly are saying something about the kind of judge they are portraying her as by confining her sense of justice to “Latina” justice, whatever that means.
    They’ve taken one comment she made that in context is such an obvious truth that anyone with any common sense at all can see is just the way it is and tried to make it into something else entirely and they are actually getting away with it.
    As if anyone on earth could so much as sign their name without it being informed by who they are. AS if anyone on earth could analyze a problem and apply remedies to it without any reference at all to the sum of their being. Come on! Thinking is thinking – you can only use what you have in your head to do it and writing is writing and despite the rules that command legal writing, it’s still the person picking the words in between the required phrases who makes the brief or opinion or writ or whatever the hell into what it is.
    This is so damned obvious to me that I cannot believe it’s even a pretend issue.

  • Stella

    It’s way too phony- looking. Another reason not to buy ‘Time’ magazine. I’ve never believed anything in there.

  • thebewilderness

    rude dog touched on it.
    Not “normal”.
    Brown people and women are not like normal people, so putting one on the court will be a dramatic change.
    Framed as a question, of course.

  • ceenik

    I think the portrait is meant to be flattering and non-controversial to counterbalance the incendiary headline. It’s flattering in a slightly impersonal, official way.
    Latina Justice–could be a B-movie title!!! It even has a suggestion of the Wild West (Southwest), pistols, lynching . . . All this deflated–or superficially denied–by the respectful, somewhat generic portrait.

  • Sirius, The Star Dog

    From _Reconstructing Old Testament Theology_,
    by Leo G. Perdue, Walter Brueggemann, p. 176
    “Latina justice is not continuous with the past or accepting of the present. While recognizing the traditions of the Latino experience is an important task, what Latinas emphasize is that the oppression they have known and continue to experience is to be replaced with the realization of their full humanity resulting from their creation in the image of God. At the same time, justice, according to mujerista theology, is accepting of differences. This acceptance is needed for interaction between a variety of marginalized groups, Hispanic and others, in order to plot and carry out acts of justice. This view of justice begins, as does all liberation theology, with the grassroots experiences of people whoa re oppressed and powerless. While oppressive power uses force and coercion to maintain nits status and to achieve its goals of self-interest, liberative power transforms the injustice and domination that are life-denying in order to establish a reality in which all may share. Justice begins with the oppressed who tell their stories, moves to solidarity of peoples who share their desire for their liberation, and then culminates in actions that transform the systemic repression that especially subjugates marginals.”

  • Rhodo Zeb

    I think the lower face looks like a caricature of Clinton, sans the bulbous nose.
    Perhaps the editors figure she is a lock for the court. This looks like a respectful illustration, although then there is that caption…

  • M Selk

    Too bad that the MEDIA picked up ‘empathy’ as the only criteria that Pres. Obama has… although he listed that last after stating that the new Justice must have impeccable judicial experience and credentials — as Judge Sotomayor has.
    Had Pres. Obama only listed judicial criteria, that would not have indicated any distinction between the judge he would appoint and all prior appointments. Is that the idea?
    The conservatives and conservative media are looking for a ‘hook’ that will point up the difference and lack of qualification for the Sotomayor appointment. They are searching for something that does not exist.

  • Apple

    The cover makes me feel queasy. On my computer, the rendition looks as though it is carved out of a block of wood, without substance, dead. The headline completes the narrowing of the focus.

  • g

    the first impression I had about the illustration was the portraits on our currency. The skin is “grained” in a similar way.
    I don’t have any objection about the illustration, really, but I hate the text framing device “Latina justice” – I think that’s a deliberately pointed and provocative message.

  • Alek

    This cover is an insult. Her skin tone is definitely darkened several shades, and she looks as if she were standing in shadow.
    The headline boggles the mind. It basically says that any deviation from White and Male is an aberration to be gawked at or condemned or pushed back into the shadows.
    If they have any shame left, the Time editors should feel it, for this antediluvian cover (and coverage) of the nomination.

  • Vulture Breath

    That’s exactly what I thought too. The cross-hatching makes it look like a currency portrait. It is weird – why not use a photo? And I hate the “Latina Justice” headline – I do read that as she will be dispensing it.

  • maebebaebe

    Lucaites, thanks for providing some links to other Time covers – I guess that isn’t one of the magazines I see often. The illustration still bothers me and it does seem like they chose to go with an illustration style that frames her as part of a specific culture using imagery that is familiar as San Antone Rose suggests.

  • spriche

    Time had to make her darker to get their point across. That being the demise of capitalism, “small government”, and this failed experiment in democracy operated by the innately racist white people who invaded and founded this country.

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