The Sotomayor Pick: Bridging the Black-Latino Divide

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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....

By the '90s, the frustrations turned violent. In 1991 blacks rioted for days in Cuban-dominated Miami after the conviction of a Hispanic police officer for killing two African Americans was overturned. That same year, Hispanics in black-controlled Washington, D.C., did the same after a Latino was wounded by a black cop.

Through it all, blacks tended to retain their political leverage because Hispanic voter turnout was abysmal by comparison. That began to change at the turn of this century, when Latinos not only overtook African Americans as the largest U.S. minority (now about 15% of the U.S. population) but also started building ballot-box muscle. By 2004 they seemed to be splitting with the Democratic Party as well, giving George W. Bush a surprising 44% of their vote in that year's presidential election.

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