(Article changed on February 16, 2014 at 09:33)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is back at it again. The "it' is talking, or rather as is his want, complaining about race. In his latest tirade Thomas left no doubt who he had in mind as being too racially thin skinned when he finger-pointed "liberal elites" and then reeled off the by now familiar litany of racial slights, incidents, and attacks on him over the years all by liberals, of course. Thomas further turns this on his head to claim that blacks supposedly incessantly see racial villainy aimed at them at every turn and rail at even the most innocent racial slight or remark. In his view, they use this as an excuse to justify their own alleged personal failures. To Thomas this makes no sense since America is far less color consciousness and the barrier or far less rigid than they were during the legal segregation era.
The most interesting thing about Thomas's racial diatribe is that he again proves that for someone who lives eats, sleeps, and endlessly professes racial color blindness, he's more obsessive about race than just about anyone. The starting point for his race obsession is affirmative action. He talked about it endlessly in his autobiography My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir when he flatly called the notion that blacks are disadvantaged by race as "nonsense."
He has mercilessly turned the issue into a one man vendetta to wipe out affirmative action programs at colleges and universities, in the workplace and in every case that comes before the court that even remotely touches on affirmative action. But even as Thomas spoke, wrote, and hammered affirmative action and by extension any talk or action on racial redress by courts, government agencies, corporations or universities he has shamelessly and hypocritically reaped the reward of playing both the racial adversary and racial victim.
Despite his mediocre political credentials and undistinguished academic record, Thomas rose from junior Senate aide to Supreme Court justice in less than a decade. Here's the parade of plum positions that he got: assistant secretary of Education for civil rights, chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an appointment to the federal judiciary, and of course, Supreme Court judge. His quick rise up the political and legal ladder was all preceded by his race based admission to Yale Law School.
In his memoir, Thomas protests that he never actively sought these spots and pretends that he didn't want them because of his deep fear that he would be permanently tarred as an affirmative action hire. But no one twisted Thomas's arm or put a knife to his throat and demanded that he accept any of these positions including admission to Yale Law School. He had a mouth and he could have opened it and said no every time he was offered a professional leg up. He didn't. If Thomas had just taken the plums served up to him, and quietly melted into the woodwork with his titles, it would have been harmless enough. But he had a bigger agenda in mind, and that was to be an aggressive and relentless foe of the very affirmative action measures that he milked.
The Supreme Court post gave him the ideal power position to advance his agenda and do real damage. The pounding he took during his High Court confirmation fight in 1991 from civil rights, civil liberties and women's groups, and the narrow Senate vote to confirm him stung deeply. Thomas didn't forget or forgive. In fact, when asked how long he'd stay on the court, he reportedly said that he'd stay there for the next 43 years of his life. He was 43 at the time. In a more revealing aside, he supposedly quipped to friends that it would take him that long to get even.
In well-prepped and orchestrated talks to ultra conservative groups, such as the one he gave at Palm Beach Atlantic University, Thomas makes it clear that he's on a mission to make sure law and public policy in America mirror his take on race. The capper is his occasional swipes his swipe at President Obama who he implies is in The White House because of his race.
Thomas will continue to pick away at race even while he craftily uses it to his advantage. Race has been his proven passport to top notch universities, plum political appointments, a seat on the high court, and solidifying his spot as the darling of ultra-conservative groups. All the while he is handsomely cashing in on his racial victim routine. Race has indeed been good to him, and he should be the last to whine about it.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson