On Dec. 10, Gov. Chris Christie nominated to the New Jersey Supreme Court yet another highly qualified Asian Pacific American candidate in Superior Court Judge David Bauman. He was nominated to Superior Court by Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and confirmed by the full Senate in 2008. Many New Jersey Democrats have stated that they would only approve diverse nominees to the state’s highest court. But now, some are arguing that the candidate is not “diverse enough.” State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex) views it this way: “To take two seats that had gone to a black and Latino and then replace us with another ethnic group is diminishing the growth of diversity.” Several other organizations also joined in a letter opposing Christie’s nomination of Bauman on the issue of diversity.
According to the 2010 Census, APAs represent more than 8.3 percent of New Jersey’s population. During the past decade, APAs were the fastest-growing minority group in the nation and are on pace to be the second-largest minority in New Jersey.
But statistics aside, this notion — that because you are now the “majority of the minority,” that you are somehow entitled to a larger piece of the pie because I am bigger than you — contradicts the spirit of diversity and undermines the root of its purpose. Democracy is the most powerful creation and ideological advancement in the history of mankind because of its ability to empower the masses. It is a government by, for, and of the people.
President Abraham Lincoln, in the Gettysburg Address, endorsed this form of government, invoking the blood sacrifices made in its name by declaring that “… we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Diversity is defined as the inclusion of different races or cultures in a group or organization.
We fight for it not to seize power for ourselves, but because our society and indeed humanity are stronger because of it. The concept thrives in a nation of immigrants, such as our United States, because every person matters.
Every vote counts. Every voice has an opportunity to be heard. Many attribute America’s success to this concept — to the hard work and exchange of ideas from people of all nations and skin colors. President Theodore Roosevelt stated, “Wide differences of opinion in matters of religious, political, and social belief must exist if conscience and intellect alike are not to be stunted, if there is to be room for healthy growth.”
Either one believes in true diversity or not — there is no “in between.” When Gov. Christie refused to reappoint the only African-American Supreme Court justice, John E. Wallace, the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey issued a press release expressing our disappointment. We wrote:
“Our democracy is founded upon principles of justice, equality and a representative government by the people for the people. Gov. Christie’s actions take our state further away from these very important ideals. It is a sad day for the state of New Jersey. APALA-NJ remains hopeful that the governor’s actions are not intended to foreshadow a lack of commitment to judicial independence and diversity in our state’s judiciary.”
Gov. Christie, whether politically motivated or not, took notice and showed that he is indeed for diversity. Since then, he made four nominations to fill two spots — three of them diversity candidates. At the end of the day, we are judged not on our rhetoric, but by our actions.
In this case, the governor should be judged by those he has nominated and the state Senate will be judged by those they confirm or reject. It is time for members of the state Senate to show exactly how they should be judged.
Paul K. Yoon is a partner at Wong Fleming P.C. and president of APALA-NJ.
Reprinted from the Star Ledger January 16, 2013