What Ails Clarence Thomas?
By Thought Merchant
Clarence Thomas is man who garners little sympathy from people on the political left of the spectrum. However, not much effort is made to understand the true nature of Thomas’ aversion to affirmative action, or his distaste for state sponsored racial remedies.
Thomas is often relegated by Blacks and the White left to a caricature of a Judicial minstrel. He’s supposedly some shuflin’ yassa bossin’ Uncle Tom whose only aim is to serve the agenda of his White conservative masters. This description of Thomas is both simplistic and unfair. It’s simplistic because little effort has been made by Blacks or the White left to elucidate the motivations behind Thomas’ opinions. The assumption is also unfair because its an easy rush to judgment that creates a facile political image to be targeted by all those who champion the canon of legal issues touted by the left and most African Americans.
By no means do I agree with Thomas’ reflexive antagonism to government remedies for racial discrimination. Nor can I excuse the rather poor quality of his legal opinions, or the paucity of his questioning of litigants from the bench.
But after reading about Justice Thomas, and watching his recent interview on 60 minutes, one thing becomes evident. Clarence Thomas’ worldview is one that has been shaped by rejection. Here is a man who was abandoned by his father at age two, given up by his mother to be raised by his Grandfather, observed the ostracism of the Jim Crow south, was rejected by the African American Bourgiousie of the Northeast, and was denied the ability to find a job after graduating in the top half of his class from Yale Law school.
Of all these potentially jarring experiences Thomas weathered, the one that strikes me as greatest in shaping his opinions of race is not surviving the Jim Crow of his Southern Youth, but the stigma Thomas must have endured as a dark skinned Black man from Pin Point Georgia trying to borrow class notes from light skinned Negroes from Sag Harbor that were members of Jack and Jill and had summer homes on Oak Bluffs in Martha’s Vineyard.
Most of America is unaware that there is a sharp class distinction among elements of the Black Community in our country. The obliviousness to Black class divide by most members of our society is caused by the constant image of buffoonery mainstream media portrays of Blacks combined with the incessant icons of misogynistic rappers streaming through cable channels like BET and MTV.
But let it be known that there are elements of the Black Community that mimic old money WASPS in their adherence to tradition, emphasis on class status, and aversion to the “darker” and “less refined” elements of the Black community. These “Vineyard Negroes” would have been more cruel, sharp tonged, and cold blooded to Thomas than many of the Rednecks in Georgia that would have at least feigned cordiality.
Couple this with the fact that Thomas was influenced heavily by Malcolm X, and by his own admission, the radical rhetoric of the Black Power Movement, both of which concentrated on Black self reliance and independence from the ‘White man’s assistance” as means of Black improvement. Combine this philosophy with the cold shoulder Thomas probably met from the Black Elite whom he would have seen as unjustly benefiting from affirmative action and you can understand the man’s Judicial philosophy.
Clarence Thomas is man who feels he has been betrayed as opposed to the image most Blacks have of him as the betrayer. He was betrayed by a system that was to help poor Blacks like himself that worked hard and went to the right schools get a good job after Law School, it didn’t happen. He was betrayed by his fellow African American brothers and sisters who came from elite families and moderate wealth because he was too dark, too poor, and too country. He was betrayed by Yale Law School, the highest ranking law school in the country, because a degree from that school did nothing to help the hard working kid from Pin Point, Georgia get a job. In Thomas’ eyes, his degree was worthless.
Finally all that betrayal and rejection culminated in the most embittering experience of his life, the experience that scarred him and turned him back to his Catholic faith, the experience of being accused of sexually harassing Anita Hill and having to go through perhaps the most humiliating Supreme Court confirmation in American History. That was the final straw.
This is what ails Clarence Thomas. He is man who has lived with rejection upon rejection. A man who is beyond anger, or revenge. He exhibits perhaps the emotion that is worst held by those who feel they have been treated unjustly. Clarence Thomas is bitter, and his bitterness is reflected in every cynical twisted bit of legal reasoning he uses to come to the decisions that affect the lives of all those people that rejected him in the past–with his version of cold blooded justice.