"Through and through I'm a lawyer and a judge," says U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. "But my life experiences do permit me to see things that others may not."
Before the Justice became a lawyer and a judge, she was a young woman growing up in the Nuyorican community in the South Bronx—just a few years behind Death, Sex & Money guest host Sonia Manzano, who also grew up there. The two didn't meet until a few years ago, but their childhoods had some similarities: Money was tight, their parents' relationships were troubled, and both of their fathers struggled with alcoholism. But unlike Sonia Manzano's father, who lived well into his 80s, the Justice's father died when she was nine years old. "I’ve often wondered if the outcome of my life would have been the same if my father had remained alive," the Justice says. "I think the absence of that constant battle made a big difference in my self-perceptions."
Sonia asks the Justice about facing and overcoming insecurities throughout her life—including on her first day as a Supreme Court Justice. "Anyone presented with a new challenge has to always have that moment of insecurity, of not knowing whether they can do it," the Justice says. "I live with that. I've lived with it my entire life....The first day that I was on the bench was for the now quite famed case, Citizens United. And my knees were knocking even then. But what got me over that moment...was to become totally engaged in what was happening before me, and the knocking finally stopped without my realizing it."
Sonia and the Justice also talk about some of the opinions that the Justice has written for the Supreme Court, including those about race and prejudice. "I know that for people to hear me, I have to be able to explain it in terms that people can sit in the shoes of the other person," the Justice says. "I suspect that there are many people...who never thought about what the impact is of snickering at a person of a different race when they walked by or of asking someone, 'Where are you really from?' when that kid has been born and raised here." They also talk about the Justice's recent words about police searches and parents of color giving their children "the talk" about interacting with the police. "It is inescapable for any child in this society who is of color of any kind, or who comes from a different background where language becomes noticeable, that they will experience that difference," the Justice says. "And they will have to cope with it. We have not become colorblind yet."