When you hear the name Clarence Thomas, what comes to mind? Race-traitor? Conservative? Anita Hill? Scandalous? Hero? Supreme Court Justice? Black leaders, like Clarence Thomas, have historically been faced with the tough and unfair task of being representatives for Black communities across the world. Is it fair to place this responsibility on an individual simply because of their race? Should race be a factor when determining who holds a legitimate position to speak for underrepresented groups? For those of you who are not familiar with Justice Clarence Thomas, take a look at the article below:
Some parts that really stuck out to me from the article are provided below:
Thus, although he seriously believes that his extremely conservative legal opinions are in the best interests of African-Americans, and yearns to be respected by them, he is arguably one of the most viscerally despised people in black America. It is incontestable that he has benefited from affirmative action at critical moments in his life, yet he denounces the policy and has persuaded himself that it played little part in his success. He berates disadvantaged people who view themselves as victims of racism and preaches an austere individualism, yet harbors self-pitying feelings of resentment and anger at his own experiences of racism. His ardent defense of states’ rights would have required him to uphold Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law, not to mention segregated education, yet he lives with a white wife in Virginia. He is said to dislike light-skinned blacks, yet he is the legal guardian of a biracial child, the son of one of his numerous poor relatives. He frequently preaches the virtues of honesty and truthfulness, yet there is now little doubt that he lied repeatedly during his confirmation hearings — not only about his pornophilia and bawdy humor but, more important, about his legal views and familiarity with cases like Roe v. Wade.
Here’s another piece that describes his personal life, growing up:
The first third of the book assiduously assembles the shards of his life from his birth in Pin Point, Ga., to his nomination to the Supreme Court by President George H. W. Bush in 1991, and it casts new light on the social and psychological context in which Thomas fashioned himself. Pin Point, where he spent his first six years, comes as close to a scene of rural desolation as is possible in an advanced society. This is black life in the rural South at its bleakest, in which the best hope of the law-abiding is a job at the old crab-picking factory. It is in this sociological nightmare that a 6-year-old boy, by some miracle of human agency, discovers the path to survival through absorption in books. Born to a teenage mother, abandoned by his father when he was a year old, plunged into the even more frightening poverty of the Savannah ghetto, Thomas, along with his brother, was eventually rescued by his grandparents.
Thomas has made a paragon of his maternal grandfather, Myers Anderson, an illiterate man who, through superhuman effort, native intelligence and upright living, was able to provide a fair degree of security for his family. Anderson cared deeply for the downtrodden, and the hard turn in Thomas’s adult individualism cannot be attributed to him. Indeed, it turns out that the man Thomas reveres disapproved strongly of his conservative politics.
Three other important forces shaped Thomas. In addition to white racism, he suffered the color prejudice of lighter-complexioned blacks. This dimension of black life has been so played down with the rise of identity politics that it comes as a shock to find a black person of the civil rights generation who feels he was severely scarred by it. Thomas says that growing up, he was teased mercilessly because his hair, complexion and features were too “Negroid” and that his schoolyard nickname was “ABC: America’s Blackest Child.” The authors seem inclined to believe contemporaries of Thomas who claim that he exaggerates and has confused class prejudice with color prejudice, as if class prejudice were any less execrable. On this, I’m inclined to believe Thomas, although, given where he now sits, the wife he sleeps with, the child he has custody of and the company he keeps, it might be time to get over it.
But Thomas bears the scars of yet another black prejudice: not only was he too black, he was also culturally too backcountry. Coastal Georgia is one of the few areas in America where a genuinely Afro-English creole — Gullah — is used, and Thomas grew up speaking it. In Savannah he was repeatedly mocked for his “Geechee” accent and was so traumatized by this that he developed the habit of simply listening when in public. That experience, Thomas claims, helps explain his mysterious silence on the Supreme Court during oral arguments. This seems a stretch, since Thomas is now an eloquent public speaker and an engaging conversationalist who, like most educated Southerners north of home, erased his accent long ago.
After reading this information, it definitely made me more sympathetic to his position. Possibly he has pushed to be more “anti-Black” (whatever that means) as an effort to dissociate himself from the negative events of his past. Furthermore, maybe it also reflects an effort to be seen as an individual, instead of a “Black” individual. There’s a big difference, and one carries a larger burden than the other.Regardless, here’s a link that discusses some of his more recent shenanigans. Enjoy!