Nice Try Clarence, But I Still Don’t Like You


On September 30th’s edition of 60 Minutes, journalist Steve Kroft profiled Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for his upcoming book, My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir. Thomas comports himself genially. He appears affable, engaging and slightly funny. Thomas has many detractors, especially among black Americans who conclude he swapped his racial consciousness for a permanent seat on the nation’s highest court. In fact, Thomas is deemed a sellout to such an extent that his name is used synonymously with Uncle Tom.

America’s most venerable news program provided him with an opportunity to change the minds of his many vociferous opponents. He was even lavished with extremely deferential journalistic treatment from Kroft where he was asked soft questions, while his responses went unchallenged. Thomas was provided the best opportunity to convert someone like me – a Thomas opponent – into someone who respects him for his accomplishments and respectfully disagrees with his judicial philosophies.

Guess what didn’t happen.

I still can’t stand him. Hours before the program aired I made the joke “all of this black-on-black crime and we can’t get one [black person] to take this fool out?” Let’s just say that nothing occurred in the time between me making that joke then and me writing this column now that persuades me to recant that line.

While I of course do not wish any actual harm on Thomas, I do wish him to go away. Perhaps his adolescent dream he discusses in the interview of being in the parish will strike him again. With his luck of racial fortuity, he will become the first black pope. And while he’s there he can make sure that there will never be another. That ladder can’t be pulled up quick enough.

Thomas makes a good point where he contends that blacks who refuse to drink the “kool-aid” as he calls it, or rejects standard civil rights positions on issues like affirmative action, are vilified. It’s verifiably true. Those black folk who do assail, at least publicly, against race based remedy policies (the Ward Connerlys of the world), are beset within the black community.

My specific issue with Thomas is that he has never offered a good response to the question of why affirmative action was good for him, but should not be offered to any other black person, beyond his “the Constitution is color-blind” line. It’s the same Constitution, Clarence. If it’s colorblind now, it did not notice your dark hue when you accepted Bush 41’s nomination to the Supreme Court as he said, laughably, that you were the most qualified person for the seat. Your colorblind self should have turned down the offer.

I was too young to view Thomas’s confirmation hearing contemporaneously, but his “high-tech lynching” comment has appeared in many texts that I have read. I had neither, however, seen his countenance as he delivered that remark, nor heard his voice as he belted out that repugnant piece of audible garbage.

Actually, I dislike him more.

For him to compare his ordeal to lynching was unforgivable. The only thing he and Emmett Till have in common is that they both apparently are open to interracial relationships. The fact that he preceded lynching with the words “high tech” means nothing to me. A high tech lynching would be if those Senate Democrats he likened to Klansman and who still draw his ire sent him an iPod that explodes when a black person uses it. That Negro is still alive. He didn’t get lynched. He got called out for being a sexual harasser.

Using rhetoric dripping in the language of America’s sordid and troubling racial past was obviously a good strategy for him to use in silencing his senatorial critics. It was, however, grossly unfair to claim himself as a lynching victim. I could call Thomas a watermelon-eating house Negro. But that would be unjust. Since he was so willing to “go there” to silence his opponents, however, and still feel vindicated in doing so as seen on 60 Minutes, he should allow his detractors the same latitude he stakes out for himself.

On the issue of whether or not he sexually harassed Anita Hill, I believe he did. The strongest piece of evidence Thomas could have pointed to in substantiation of his obdurately held position that Hill was a prevaricator was the Real Anita Hill written by David Brock. The only problem with that book is that Brock has since disavowed its content in a subsequent book Blinded by the Right, wherein he admits his anti-Hill screed contained fiction propagated by the right wing to vindicate its favorite Quota King.

In light of the fact that Hill passed a polygraph that Thomas refused to take, the deceptive look in his eyes when he answered those questions during the interview along with all the other evidence, I am convinced that Hill’s versions of events are closer to the truth.

Justice Thomas’s legacy has yet to be written. And history is always crafted by the victor. Here’s to hoping that his memoir won’t be deemed a win.

Brando Simeo Starkey is a 3L.

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