Re: [xmca] FW: Goodman: With Justice Thomas, it's more about philosophy than race

From: Paul Dillon <phd_crit_think who-is-at>
Date: Sun Jul 08 2007 - 08:02:38 PDT

  I for one appreciate the info you've been providing about the pube-can man. I always felt that Thomas' appointment to replaced a truly great supreme court justice and man, Thurgood Marshall, showed the venality, hypocrisy, and moral bankruptcy of the political forces that gained ascendancy with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and which have since converted the US in the pariah it has become in the world today. Some might remember the old bumper stickers: "Impeach Earl Warrren", similar stickers might be appropriate for Thomas in the present.

Peter Smagorinsky <> wrote:
  OK, one more on Clarence Thomas. I'll preface it with something an old
college friend said when I sent it to him:

Remarkable. I remember, faintly, thinking of the Supreme Court as an
assemblage of wise, wrinkled up old geezers who would thoughtfully consider
questions brought before them and render truths.

That was never the case, I suppose, but the current justices could write
their "opinions" without even hearing the legal arguments, and the
"opinions" are really nothing more than elaborate statements of each
justice's pre-existing biases. None more so than Thomas, I am sure.

They seem little different in kind from the familiar local loudmouth on a
bar stool, asserting his "opinions", hearing nothing said to him,
questioning none of his own long-standing platitudes.

Goodman: With Justice Thomas, it's more about philosophy than race

By Ellen Goodman | Columnist | Story updated at 7:08 PM on Thursday,
July 5, 2007

Let me wish the Supreme Court justices a fond farewell as they set out on
their summer vacation. We all can rest assured now that they won't do any
more damage until the first week in October.

And a special shout-out to Clarence Thomas, who may embark on his annual
road trip in his 40-foot motor home knowing that he's accomplished one life
goal. The justice is now talked about even less in terms of race - less as
the profligate successor to Thurgood Marshall than as a certified member of
the court's right wing. Color him conservative.

One of the last things the court did on its way out the door was to strike
down the voluntary integration plans in the public schools of Seattle and
Louisville. The plurality had the gall to invoke the famous desegregation
decision, Brown v. Board of Education, to justify rolling back integration.

Much was said about the new chief justice, John Roberts, and his sound-bite
decision that "the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to
stop discriminating on the basis of race." Much was said about Anthony
Kennedy's opinion that offers a Houdini-like school committee a few ways out
of the box.


In contrast, Justice Thomas' concurring opinion got remarkably little
attention. By now he's been identified with the little statue of St. Jude
that he keeps on his desk: the patron saint of lost causes.

But for those who still find Thomas a fascinating figure after 16 years on
the bench, his opinion was fertile ground. It was rife with scorn for
"social theories" and disdain for integration itself.

Thomas did more than compare the integrationists of today with the
segregationists of 1954. He praised the virtues of some all-black high
schools in the Jim Crow era. Then he added, "it is far from apparent that
coerced racial mixing has any educational benefits, much less that
integration is necessary to black achievement."

One sentence leaps out of the footnotes: "Nothing but an interest in
classroom aesthetics and a hypersensitivity to elite sensibilities justifies
the school districts' racial balancing programs." He trivialized the values
of diversity to a matter of aesthetics and closed with a warning: "beware of
elites bearing racial theories." So much for a half-century of civil rights.

These still are extraordinary words coming from the one justice on the bench
who actually attended segregated black schools. But they are not
extraordinary words from the man who officiated at Rush Limbaugh's wedding
and whose favorable ratings among black Americans have been clocked at 32

Thomas' psyche still intrigues those who search for the biography in his
opinions. We know Thomas as a man who benefited from the affirmative action
he scorns. He attended Holy Cross with a scholarship established for blacks
after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. He was accepted to Yale Law
School, where a program committed 10 percent of the seats to minorities.

In their engrossing book "Supreme Discomfort," Kevin Merida and Michael
Fletcher write, "Race is a central fact of his meteoric rise and Thomas has
alternately denied it and resented it - all the way to the top."

I have no doubt Thomas sees himself as the victim of racism, and the "racism
lite" experienced by many black professionals tagged as "affirmative action
babies." He's kept the pile of rejection letters received after graduating
from law school. At his searing confirmation hearings, he froze the senators
in their tracks by consciously describing himself as the victim of a
"high-tech lynching." He also knows that many people questioned his
credentials for the Supreme Court.

There is also no doubt Thomas is fiercely independent, a prickly
individualist. Merida and Fletcher describe his "need not to be typecast,
which is a synonym for limited, which is a synonym for inferior." But his
struggle against stereotypes, especially black stereotypes, plays out
ironically as a struggle against being typecast as moderate or progressive.
He once defended his conservative ideology by saying he refused to have his
ideas assigned to him "as though I was an intellectual slave because I'm

The end result of this "rebelliousness" is, perversely, that Thomas is the
most extreme justice when it comes to rolling back civil rights. The result
of this "independence" is that he's the most predictable member of the
conservative camp.

There Thomas is certain to remain. This justice was confirmed by the
smallest margin in history. He not only convinced senators that Anita Hill
lied, he convinced them that he wouldn't be a rigid ideologue. Honk if you
believe Anita now.

At only 59, Clarence Thomas sits on the far right edge. As the court drifts
further and further in his direction.

. Ellen Goodman is a syndicated columnist whose work appears occasionally in
the Athens Banner-Herald. Send e-mail to

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Received on Sun Jul 8 08:04 PDT 2007

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