Friday, October 05, 2007

Acting White: Justice Clarence Thomas

I watched a replay of the 60 Minutes interview of Clarence Thomas yesterday, on YouTube , and continue to find the man as perplexing as ever. When I hear him repeat that senior Bush selected him to succeed Thurgood Marshall because he was the most qualified candidate, I nearly fall out of my chair - again. He continues to ignore the bevy of Black jurists that had more than barely one year under their robes as judges, as well as legal experience and pedigree’s far surpassing his own.

Anyway, what is really worth talking about here is, as WP columnist Eugene Robinson said, not about how little the public thinks of Thomas, but rather how little he thinks of himself. It is very sad that he cannot reconcile the many twists and turns of his own life in getting where he is today, and how this should inform his role as a judge.

The idea that affirmative action (AA) needs to be overhauled so that more of the historically disadvantaged, including blacks, are benefited does not erase efforts of those, like Thomas (and me included) who more selectively benefited from the program, worts and all. He forgets that just a short time before he was helped by AA, blacks more qualified than he were denied education, purely on the basis of race.

I submit that his difficulty getting a job out of law school likely had more to do with him, personally, than with bigotry. He may have believed his Yale degree would get him the red-carpet treatment, but that was his miscalculation of society, not a failing of AA. Did AA take his exams? Did it sit for the bar in his place? Did it make his Yale classmates or professors go easy on him? Perhaps, but this was not my graduate school experience. The truth is there are too many AA dropouts wandering about for anyone to think that the program did more than push people, some ready some not, through a door previously closed. AA was a band-aid to the boiling-point problems of the 1960's, and is long overdue for replacement with more thoughtful programs.

Thomas takes out his personal bitterness, for not being likable, on his past. He does this in crude fashion that reveals an emotional ‘chip’ so large it disqualifies his position on the court. I contend that it further compromises his judgment, in addition to his contemptuous treatment of precedence set in case law. Staking out the most conservative position on the court is nothing more than creating a safe and formulaic place where he avoids the distinguishing challenge of his own and the country's internal conflicts, which any good jurists must learn to navigate while administering the law.

The only reason his law degree is worth $0.15 is that he needs this to be true to justify, in his mind, the Republican stripes he desperately donned in order to hop onto Senator J.Danforth's coattails, and ultimately onto the high court.

James C. Collier


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plez... said...

What an interesting assessment. Justice Thomas puts himself out there for analysis and after the "60 Minutes" interview, I've also wondered if his bitterness (and mental anguish as a result) disqualifies him from sitting in judgment on the High Court? That guy has issues that I'm afraid more than likely has clouded his judgment on more than one occasion.

Unknown said...

Why does he remind me of the fictional Supreme Justice in the bestseller 'The Emperor of Ocean Park'?

I speculate that he's bitter because he believes he did everything 'right' and he didn't get what he 'deserved'. I'm sure he thought the black community would parade him on their shoulders and doors would fly open to him because of his affiliations or titles and when they didn't and still don't it's like the ultimate betrayal.

I liken it to a white supremacist who dies only to find out that Jesus was black.

His conservative idol worshiping has proved fruitless, even though he sits on the highest bench in the land. I think that conservatives, liberals and everyone in between can smell his insincerity and just flat out find him lacking.