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The Shame of Clarence Thomas

By       Message John Grant     Permalink
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Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied ...
Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton
For your ribbons and bows

- Leonard Cohen


In honor of our Supreme Court I've decided to start this piece with a prayer.

Great Spirit of our imagination, have mercy on us stupid, hypocritical bipeds, especially those exceptional examples in black robes who decide whether an armed police officer can strip-search us in public or whether a one-hundred dollar bill has a conscience. Do all you can, Mighty Great One, to allow at least a little light and compassion into the hidden, dark recesses of their august institution.

Amen.


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Now we can get on with this humble, scribbled note from underground.

Considering his appointment history in conjunction with his opinions and voting record concerning affirmative action, if Clarence Thomas had any sense of human decency ... No wait a minute. ... Given the facts of his career, if Clarence Thomas had any honor, a backbone or a pair of independent-minded balls, he'd stop whining about affirmative action and resign.


Barbara and George Bush; Clarence and Virginia Thomas and Justice Byron White
(Image by unknown)
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The Supreme Court's recent banning of affirmative action in a case from Michigan should remind everyone how really offensive the Thomas appointment was and how it smells worse as time goes by. Thomas notoriously sits among his eight colleagues and does not ask questions, which suggests he lacks the intellectual confidence to swim with the big fish on the court. On top of that, he's a virtual intellectual drone of Antonin Scalia. According to a recent study on Supreme Court justices and political bias, Thomas is the most conservative justice on the court -- even more so than his master Scalia. In an insightful article called "The Last Confederate Is Clarence Thomas", attorney Charles Pierce describes Thomas' legal philosophy as a bizarre retrograde advocacy of States Rights over the US Constitution reminiscent of pre-Civil War times. Thomas is, he writes, a "staggering political and historical contradiction. He is the last, and the truest, descendant of John C. Calhoun."

(I realize the use of the word "master" for Justice Scalia may bother some. For example, I can hear Sean Hannity fulminating how I'm a "racist" for using plantation terminology. The fact is I can't speak in dog whistle language and prefer a French horn.)

The reason Thomas should resign is simple: He consistently argues and votes against affirmative action while he is arguably one of the most flagrant and, certainly, the most controversial, case of affirmative action in American history. Thomas decrying affirmative action is like Macbeth opposing murder.

Along with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Thomas graduated from Yale Law School. Both benefited from affirmative action. While Sotomayor, who wrote a 58-page dissent in the Michigan case, is a ferocious defender of affirmative action due to past injustices, Thomas consistently damns it and votes against it. He wrote the following in a 2003 legal dissent:

"When blacks take positions in the highest places of government, industry, or academia, it is an open question today whether their skin color played a part in their advancement."

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He should know. There's no question this applies to him.

In his memoir, he said his decision to accept an elite education from Yale Law School was a mistake. "I felt as though I'd been tricked, that some of the people who claimed to be helping me were in fact hurting me. It was futile for me to suppose I could escape the stigmatizing effects of racial preference."

One naturally wonders where Thomas would have ended up without the elite boost he says ended up ironically "hurting" him? Without that elite 1974 Yale degree, would Missouri Republican Senator John Danford have made him an aide and become his political patron, getting him jobs like the one Ronald Reagan gave him at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Then, President George Bush The First put him on the Appeals Bench for 16 months before elevating him to the Supreme Court.

If in retrospect accepting help was such an unpleasant mistake, why does he remain in the extremely "stigmatizing" role as a blatant affirmative action token on the US Supreme Court? He must be miserable there; the pain he cites must secretly gnaw at him day-in, day-out. You have to wonder how the man lives with himself. After all, Clarence Thomas is not a stupid man. No one is suggesting that. While his earlier job offers and promotions may not have been race-based, there's no doubt his final one was. He's a glaring example of the old Peter Principal, which said people tended to be promoted to their level of incompetence, where they remained.

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I'm a 68-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a naive 19-year-old kid. From that moment on, I've been studying and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I'm a writer, photographer and (more...)
 

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