Clarence Thomas Has A Radical Vision Of Racism And Our Ability To Solve It

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Written by Ann Brown
Clarence Thomas
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas addresses the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention dinner at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, MD, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. The convention is dedicated to the legacy of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia who died Feb 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Clarence Thomas. There’s more to the current longest-serving Justice on the Supreme Court than meets the eye, according to Corey Robin, author of the forthcoming book The Enigma of Clarence Thomas.”

In an article for The New Yorker, Robin concluded that the Black nationalism Thomas embraced while in college is still part of his core when it comes to his beliefs about racism.

Thomas, who joined the bench on October 19, 1991, has since written more than seven hundred opinions. And most often taking controversial positions on such hot button issues as gun rights and campaign finance. 

“By consensus, Thomas is the most conservative member of the Court. So it’s surprising that the central theme of his jurisprudence is race,” Robin wrote.

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Thomas was 40, just four years before his appointment to the Court, when he spoke publicly about his vision on race in a profile in The Atlantic. “There is nothing you can do to get past Black skin,” he said. “I don’t care how educated you are, how good you are at what you do — you’ll never have the same contacts or opportunities, you’ll never be seen as equal to whites.” 

To this day, he seems to work under the same belief, according to Robin. 

“On the Court, Thomas continues to believe — and to argue, in opinion after opinion — that race matters; that racism is a constant, ineradicable feature of American life; and that the only hope for Black people lies within themselves, not as individuals but as a separate community with separate institutions, apart from white people,” wrote Robin.

This statement has sparked a debate on Twitter, as one user posted: “The ability to solve racism and bigotry determines a true and genuine open line of real communication between parties on both sides of that proverbial fence. And the admission a stolen America is, illegal by it’s origin of the genocide of people of color.”

Another tweeted: “I read his [Thomas’] book – saw bunch of interviews – he did not say or think this way! The leftist media wants to shame and destroy any Black man that dares to be a non democrat.”

But Robin thinks Thomas follows a conservative Black nationalist view on race and racism, as he has often spoken about growing up in the segregated South. And even though he did, Thomas does not wholeheartedly embrace inclusion. 

“Some people think that the solution to all the problems of Black people is integration,” Thomas said, in 1997. Thomas admits he is not one of them. 

In a profile of Thomas in The New Yorker Thomas said: “I am the only one at this table who attended a segregated school. And the problem with segregation was not that we didn’t have white people in our class. The problem was that we didn’t have equal facilities. We didn’t have heating, we didn’t have books, and we had rickety chairs…All my classmates and I wanted was the choice to attend a mostly Black or a mostly white school, and to have the same resources in whatever school we chose.”

For Thomas integration does harm to Black people. 

“If separation itself is a harm,” he has written, “and if integration therefore is the only way that Blacks can receive a proper education, then there must be something inferior about Blacks.”

A staunch believer in self sufficiency, Thoams is not a fan of Affirmative Action, though it did help him get into Yale Law School.

Affirmative action, Thomas has said, stamps all African-Americans with “a badge of inferiority.”

“The second way affirmative action continues white supremacy is by elevating whites to the status of benefactors, doling out scarce privileges to those Black people they deem worthy. The most remarkable element of Thomas’s affirmative-action jurisprudence, and what makes it unlike that of any other Justice on the Supreme Court, is how much attention he devotes to whites, not as victims but as perpetrators, the lead actors in a racial drama of their own imagination. Put simply, Thomas believes that affirmative action is a white program for white people,” Robin wrote.

Thomas, who was a fan of Malcolm X in college, even today he still relies on the teachings of Malcolm X. 

“I’ve been very partial to Malcolm X,” Thomas said, in 1987. “There is a lot of good in what he says.” And on the eve of his appointment to the Supreme Court, Thomas spoke of Malcolm as an example of his self-sufficiency stance. Said Thomas then: “I don’t see how the civil-rights people today can claim Malcolm X as one of their own,” he said. “Where does he say Black people should go begging the Labor Department for jobs? He was hell on integrationists. Where does he say you should sacrifice your institutions to be next to white people?”

As Robin concluded in his article: “In this sense, the story of Clarence Thomas is the story of the last half-century of American politics. It is a story of defeat, not only of the civil-rights movement and the promise of Black freedom but of a larger vision of democratic transformation, in which men and women act collectively to alter their estate. The citizens of the freedom struggle believed that society was made, and could be remade, through politics. Many of their successors, including Thomas, no longer believe that kind of change is possible. A deep and abiding pessimism now pervades our politics, transcending the divisions of right and left. Clarence Thomas, the most extreme Justice on the Supreme Court, turns out also to be the most emblematic.”