Bittersweet Week: Judge Sotomayor, Prop 8 Upheld, Ron Takaki Passes; Launching

We experienced last week several gut-wrenching and rejoiceful moments.

On Tuesday, May 26, President Barack Obama announced his historic nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. On the same morning, the California Supreme Court ruled against marriage equality by upholding Prop. 8. The following day brought news that a preeminent scholar on our nation’s diversity, UC Berkeley professor Ronald Takaki, passed away.


In nominating Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, President Obama fulfilled a promise to the American people to appoint judges who are well-qualified, grounded in the rule of law and the Constitution, fair-minded and committed to equal justice for all. Judge Sotomayor embodies all these traits.

In the course of a life that began in a housing project in the South Bronx and brought her to the pinnacle of her profession, Judge Sotomayor accumulated more experience on the federal bench than any incoming Supreme Court Justice in the past 100 years, touching nearly every aspect of our legal system.

But Judge Sotomayor’s ethnicity has proven too much of a temptation for the voices of hate and extremism, who instead of looking at her judicial record have launched a vocal rampage that has reached new heights of absurdity, including calling her a “reverse racist” and calling the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) “the Latino KKK without the hoods and nooses.”

Condemn these unacceptable attacks on Latinos and Judge Sotomayor now. Join NLCR and send a message to Chairman Michael Steele of the RNC, House Minority Leader John Boehner, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asking them to denounce these statements and restore the nomination process for Judge Sotomayor to a more appropriate and civil discourse.

EJS has also launched a blog and Facebook page in support for Judge Sotomayor. Visit and join the Facebook page as a fan. The blog includes a page with information on how you can support Judge Sotomayor.

And if you’re in California, please support our Californians for Fair and Independent Judges coalition so that organizations and individuals here can work together to support Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation. Email Keith Kamisugi at for information about joining the coalition.


The California Supreme Court last Tuesday in a 6-1 vote upheld Prop. 8, the ballot measure discriminating against marriage by same-sex couples.

EJS is relieved the Court protected couples who married before November 5. The presence of thousands of married same-sex couples across California will show that marriage strengthens families and communities and threatens no one.

But by upholding Prop 8, the Court has diminished its legacy as a champion of equality. No minority group should have to defend its right to equality at the ballot. The Court’s decision jeopardizes every minority group in California.

As a racial justice organization, the Equal Justice Society opposes Prop. 8 – not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because EJS strongly believes in working with others to ensure that the rights of all are expanded, rather than diminished, in our society.

We cannot just pigeonhole Prop. 8 as a ‘gay’ issue. By rolling back the fundamental rights of one group, the Supreme Court’s decision on Prop. 8 casts a threat that now looms over the civil rights of all.

Since the vote on Prop 8, there has been a tidal wave of momentum in favor of full equality. Five states now embrace marriage equality for same-sex couples, and several more are on the brink. We believe that California voters will reverse this injustice at the ballot. California has been a leader in standing up for equality, and it will be again.

Banning same-sex couples from marriage is unfair. Same-sex couples have the same hopes, dreams and concerns for their families as everyone else. They should be allowed the dignity, recognition, and responsibility that come with marriage, just like everyone else.

The fight is not over. Join our friends at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (led by EJS board member Kate Kendall) to receive updates on next steps in this battle for justice.


Ronald Takaki, professor emeritus of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and a preeminent scholar of U.S. race relations who taught the University of California’s first black history course, died at his home in Berkeley on Tuesday, May 26, at age 70. He had struggled for years with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune condition that attacks the central nervous system.

During his more than 40 years at UC Berkeley, Takaki established the nation’s first ethnic studies Ph.D. program as well as UC Berkeley’s American Cultures requirement for graduation, and advised President Clinton in 1997 on his major speech on race.

“Ron Takaki elevated and popularized the study of America’s multiracial past and present like no other scholar, and in doing so had an indelible impact on a generation of students and researchers across the nation and world,” said Don Nakanishi, director of and professor at UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center and a longtime friend of Takaki’s.

Takaki’s 1989 book, “Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans,” was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

A descendent of Japanese field workers in Hawai’i, Takaki was acutely attuned to the inequities in Hawai’i’s tough and ethnically divided plantation system.

In 1966, he was hired to teach UCLA’s first black history course in the wake of the explosive Watts riots. “I can still remember the smoke rising from Los Angeles and the sound of gunfire – it was a war zone,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle in that same interview.

When a student in the black history class asked him which revolutionary tools he could teach them, Takaki replied: “We’re going to study the history of the U.S. as it relates to African Americans. We’re going to strengthen our critical thinking skills and our writing skills. These can be revolutionary tools if we make them so.”

After five years at UCLA, Takaki returned in 1971 to UC Berkeley as the Department of Ethnic Studies’ first full-time teacher. He became wildly popular, filling auditoriums with hundreds of students hungry for perspectives on the struggles of America’s minority groups, and went on to win the campus’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1981.

Takaki is survived by his wife, Carol; his three children, Todd of El Cerrito, Calif., Troy of Los Angeles and Dana of Chester, Conn.; and several grandchildren.

Takaki has donated his research and published papers to the Ethnic Studies Library at UC Berkeley. His family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Takaki’s name to the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco. Plans for a campus memorial service are pending.

All of us at the Equal Justice Society mourn Prof. Takaki’s passing and we express our deepest condolences to Ron’s family and friends.

Join a Facebook page launched in tribute to Prof. Takaki.

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