Three Questions for Clarence Thomas

John Blake, CNN, June 9, 2013

He wore a black beret and army fatigues, warned people that a revolution was coming and memorized the speeches of Malcolm X.

“I now believed that the whole of American culture was irretrievably tainted by racism,” he once said, describing his reaction to the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Soon, that same man is expected to help the U.S. Supreme Court bury two pillars of the civil rights movement: the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action.

There may seem to be a contradiction between the Clarence Thomas who was the angry campus radical in the 1960s and the conservative hero who sits on the Supreme Court today. But some legal observers say Thomas sees himself as a “prophetic civil rights leader” who is still fighting for the same cause–a colorblind America.

Thomas is an American hero, says Henry Mark Holzer, author of “The Supreme Court Opinions of Clarence Thomas.”

“A lot of people who are what I call professional Negros have ridden white guilt and socialism to very lucrative lives,” says Holzer, who uses the term “Negro” because he says he doesn’t classify people by skin color.

“Thomas didn’t,” Holzer says. “He made a very deliberate and gutsy decision to go where his intellect and his study took him, and that’s heroic.”

One man’s hero, though, is another man’s sellout. During his 22 years on the nation’s highest court, Thomas has been called a self-loathing “Uncle Thomas.” {snip}

Yet he is still a mystery to many. There are questions about Thomas that have persisted even after two decades on the Supreme Court as its lone African-American justice.

Here are three of them:

Question 1: Why does Thomas condemn affirmative action if he benefited from it?

When the Supreme Court issues a ruling soon on the constitutionality of using race in college admissions, the impact could be momentous. {snip}

There seems to be little mystery about how Thomas will vote.

He consistently votes against affirmative action policies because he says they’re divisive, unconstitutional and harmful to their recipients. He cites his own experience as an example.

Thomas was born in poverty in rural Georgia but managed to gain admittance to Yale Law School. He acknowledges that he made it to Yale because of affirmative action but says the stigma of preferential treatment made it difficult for him to find a job after college.

In his memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son,” Thomas says he felt “tricked” by paternalistic whites at Yale who recruited black students.

{snip}

Some observers, though, counter with one question:

If affirmative action is so bad for its recipients, how come you’ve done so well?

{snip}

Thomas’ constitutional philosophy is simple, Gerber says: All Americans should be treated as individuals and not as members of a racial or ethnic group.

Gerber says Thomas has ruled against the Voting Rights Act in the past because he believes that laws based on the “proportional allocation of political powers according to race” should be overturned.

{snip}

The Supreme Court is considering abandoning Section 5 of the act, which requires states with a history of discrimination to “pre-clear” any changes in voting law with the U.S. Justice Department first.

Thomas isn’t the only Supreme Court justice whose life has been shaped by affirmative action. One of his colleagues is grateful for the role it played in her life.

Sonia Sotomayor recently told “60 Minutes” that affirmative action helped her gain admittance to Princeton University. (She also graduated from Yale Law School.) She is the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court.

“It was a door-opener that changed the course of my life,” Sotomayor said in the January interview.

Question 2: How does Thomas embrace an “originalist” view of the Constitution when the framers would have considered him a slave?

A lot of originalist judges rhapsodize about the wisdom of the Constitution’s framers, but Thomas approaches the Constitution with a different racial history. Blacks were enslaved by many of the founding fathers who talked about liberty and freedom.

How does a black judge become an originalist when the “original intent” of the Constitution was to preserve slavery and classify slaves as three-fifths of a human being?

Thomas addressed that question in part in one of his most cited opinions, a 2007 school integration case, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1.

Thomas joined a conservative majority that ruled 5-4 that race cannot be a factor in assigning children to public schools. In a concurring opinion, Thomas cited one of the Supreme Court’s greatest judges, John Marshall Harlan, known as the “great dissenter.”

Harlan issued a thunderous dissent in the notorious 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case, which sanctioned the separate but equal doctrine that provided the legal foundation for the brutal Jim Crow era. Plessy is considered one of the high court’s lowest moments.

Thomas invoked another landmark Supreme Court decision, the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which declared segregated schools and the separate-but-equal doctrine of Plessy unconstitutional.

Thomas wrote in the Seattle decision:

“My view of the Constitution is Justice Harlan’s view in Plessy: ‘Our Constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.’ And my view was the rallying cry for the lawyers who litigated Brown.”

Thomas embraces an originalism that is rooted in the principles of the founders rather than their practices, wrote Hannah L. Weiner, author of an article in the Duke Law Journal on Thomas entitled “The Next Great Dissenter.”

{snip}

Thomas and other conservative judges believe the 14th Amendment bans any preferential treatment of minorities because the Constitution is colorblind. It doesn’t matter if a person is white, black or green, they say, dividing people up by race is unconstitutional. They cite Harlan’s “colorblind” dissent in Plessy in which he invoked the 14th Amendment.

{snip}

Question 3: Why doesn’t Thomas follow his own advice about not playing the victim?

When he worked for the Reagan administration, Thomas once told a reporter that all civil rights leaders did was “bitch, bitch, bitch, moan and moan, whine and whine.”

Thomas has long preached that blacks should be self-reliant and stop complaining about racism. He traces that philosophy to his childhood in Georgia, where he was raised by a stern grandfather who told him he had to “play the hand” fate dealt him.

“I’d long believed that the best thing to do was to stop government-sanctioned segregation, then concentrate on education and equal employment opportunities,” he wrote in his memoir. “The rest I thought would take care of itself.”

Yet critics say Thomas doesn’t follow his own advice. They say he regularly portrays himself as a victim even though he sits on the nation’s highest court.

Fletcher called him “the most successful victim in America.”

He says Thomas holds grudges against old college classmates, black critics and “elites.” He often equates his plight to that of slaves when he compares critics to “overseers” and talks about blacks who expect him to be an “intellectual slave.”

“He has a lot of slights that he catalogs carefully throughout his life,” Fletcher says.

{snip}

Thomas’ behavior at his confirmation hearing in 1991 soured some critics as well. When he was accused of sexual harassment, Thomas publicly told a Senate panel that he was the victim of a “high-tech lynching” reserved for uppity blacks.

{snip}

In his memoir, he wrote about his confirmation hearing:

“As a child in the Deep South, I’d grown up fearing the lynch mobs of the Ku Klux Klan; as an adult, I was starting to wonder if I’d been afraid of the wrong white people all along. My worst fears had come to pass not in Georgia but in Washington, D.C., where I was being pursued not by bigots in white robes but by left-wing zealots draped in flowing sanctimony.”

{snip}

Topics: , , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • It’s a shame when the apparently most conservative member of the Supreme Court is Clarence “Long Dong Silver” Thomas.
    I don’t blame him for using Affirmative Action. I blame the ones who implemented it, and the whites who won’t even try to fight it.
    Thomas’s voting record is among the most fair, and I don’t care if he’s worried about pubic hairs in his coca-cola.

  • The__Bobster

    If affirmative action is so bad for its recipients, how come you’ve done so well?
    ______________

    It’s not bad for its recipients. It allows them to live far above their skill sets. Instead, it’s bad for the Whites who have been victimized by it.

    • NeanderthalDNA

      Always has been, always will be Ruckuses. Of course his fellow blacks hate him and other Ruckuses…they speak unflattering and logically irrefutable truths.

      Clarence Thomas – true “magical negro”. One that understands the unflattering reality of race and dares to imply the Truth…

      • Sick of it

        His philosophy appears to mirror that of the Founders – Don’t legislate for or against something that would cause a violation of our constitutional rights. So no forced integration nor forced segregation. No affirmative action for anyone regardless of color or creed. No special or protected classes under the law.

    • Eagle_Eyed

      The leftist idiot exposed exactly why affirmative action should be opposed by the vast vast majority of whites. After all, just think of the white students, attorneys, and judges who were passed up so a black man could get a promotion.

      If racial discrimination is a horrible injustice like the liberals say then the only way to stop such an injustice is to stop discriminating by race.

  • I personally think that events and circumstances, as well as growing up, is what made Clarence Thomas transition from the radical young adult to the moderate black member of the lower levels of the Federal judiciary. However, I think the reason he veered significantly to the “right” (such as it is defined) after he got on SCOTUS is because he is viscerally reacting to the black-leftist civil rights rabble the stabbed him in the back.

  • The__Bobster

    Sonia Sotomayor recently told “60 Minutes” that affirmative action helped her gain admittance to Princeton University. (She also graduated from Yale Law School.) She is the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court.
    ____________

    In contrast to Justice Thomas, this “Wise Latrina” isn’t wise at all and does not belong on the SCOTUS. She wouldn’t even make a good ghetto lawyer.

    • HamletsGhost

      She said in a public speech that she didn’t even know there was such a thing as a Supreme Court till she was a junior in college. So much for the “wise Latina” bit.

  • The__Bobster

    When he worked for the Reagan administration, Thomas once told a reporter that all civil rights leaders did was “bitch, bitch, bitch, moan and moan, whine and whine.”
    _________
    Because that’s all they have,,,,and they wouldn’t even had that if we ignored them like we should.

    • Sick of it

      Those same “civil rights leaders” ripoff poor blacks at every opportunity to enrich themselves. Despicable people.

  • bigone4u

    Ironically, it seems as if quite a few members of the High Court were appointed not because of their great legal minds, but because they fill a quota. Jews, Catholics, women, Hispanics, and blacks have a piece of the action, while not a single Protestant wears one of the nine black robes. Sotomayor seems at this point to be the worst of the bunch, but the race to the bottom will accelerate as Obama picks next time.

    • TPP

      I hear that California attorney general Kamala Harris is next in line.

      • Sick of it

        “Harris created a special Hate Crimes Unit as San Francisco District Attorney. She focused on hate crimes against LGBT children and teens in schools.”

        It would be the last nail in America’s coffin…

        • It’s San Francisco. Who would commit hate crimes against LGBTQMIAPDLOLPLPLTH children and teens? Hint: It’s not anyone that watches 700 Club.

    • Romulus

      That is indeed a fair assessment. I would even go so far as to say that your comment on particular “picks” parallels the demographic influx of Die-versity and the crash in the north and western European one.

    • Ivy League. All current SCOTUS members are Ivy League law school alumni, all but Ginsburg (Columbia) are either Harvard or Yale. The last time a non-Ivy was appointed was when Bush 43 initially appointed Harriet Miers (Southern Methodist), but she was about as qualified to go on the Supreme Court as I was.

      There simply have to be people who both have the CV to be on SCOTUS and didn’t touch an Ivy with a ten-foot pole.

      • bigone4u

        Agreed. The Ivies teach a legal philosophy which in general is at odds with mine. The best Justices seem to be Alito and Scalia, ethnic Italians. They are another reason to love Italians, beside the food and the beautiful Italian women.

  • JohnEngelman

    Question 1: Why does Thomas condemn affirmative action if he benefited from it?

    – John Blake, CNN, June 9, 2013

    Integrity.

  • JohnEngelman

    Sonia Sotomayor recently told “60 Minutes” that affirmative action helped her gain admittance to Princeton University. (She also graduated from Yale Law School.) She is the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court.

    “It was a door-opener that changed the course of my life,” Sotomayor said in the January interview.

    – John Blake, CNN, June 9, 2013

    It closed doors for more deserving whites.

  • JohnEngelman

    Question 2: How does Thomas embrace an “originalist” view of the Constitution when the framers would have considered him a slave?

    – John Blake, CNN, June 9, 2013

    He would take into consideration the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments.

  • Spartacus

    Wow… A black man that doesn’t make me angry every time he says something. I guess miracles do happen !

    • Sick of it

      Read Thomas Sowell’s work periodically.

    • Alexandra1973

      A decent black person is truly in the minority.

  • Sick of it

    I will once again state..what has the Klan been doing in the South since I was born? Nothing, yet they are demonized while the NAACP actively encourages CRIMINAL ACTIVITY in government and gets away with it scott free. They also encourage VOTER INTIMIDATION – A federal crime.

    Personally, I’ve only even heard of one guy in the Klan, so it’s not like they’re a big organization, whereas you will find the NAACP EVERYWHERE!

  • Sick of it

    More agree with him than you’d think, but they vote the wrong way because politics in this country has been divided on ethnic lines.

  • John Smith

    It appears Thomas was always focused on equality and now the diversity left doesn’t like it.

  • Brutus

    What strikes me, is that conservatives today argue that the Constitution is “colorblind” (which it never was intended to be), whereas liberals argue that racial discrimination against Whites is permissible.

    White conservatives need to get rid of their “colorblindness,” and recognize that the Constitution was written by White men for the governing of a White nation. Instead of arguing that racial discrimination in school admissions is unconstitutional, we should accept that it is constitutional and practice it in favor of White students. Overturn Brown v. Board of Education.