If Judge Sonia Sotomayor joins Justice Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court, they may find that they have far more than a job title in common.
Both come from the humblest of beginnings. Both were members of the first sizable generation of minority students at elite colleges and then Yale Law School. Both benefited from affirmative action policies.
But that is where their similarities end, and their disagreements begin. For the first time, the Supreme Court would include two minority judges, but ones who stand at opposite poles of thinking about race, identity and opportunity. Judge Sotomayor and Justice Thomas have walked parallel paths and yet arrived at contrary conclusions, not only on legal questions, but on personal ones, too.
Judge Sotomayor celebrates being Latina, calling it a reason for her success; Justice Thomas bristles at attempts to define him by race and says he has succeeded despite the obstacles it posed. Being a woman of Puerto Rican descent is rich and fulfilling, Judge Sotomayor says, while Justice Thomas calls being a black man in America a largely searing experience. Off the bench, Judge Sotomayor has helped build affirmative action programs. On the bench, Justice Thomas has argued against them with thunderous force.
Read it all from the front page of yesterday’s New York Times.