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

From: Kris Gutierrez <gutierrez who-is-at>
Date: Sun Jul 08 2007 - 18:03:21 PDT

Re: Justice Thomas

You might be interested in reading Judge and scholar Leon
Higginbotham, Jr.'s essay: "Open Letter to Clarence Thomas from a
Federal Judicial Colleague" in Toni Morrison's Race-ing Justice, En-
gendering Power (1992); it was first published in the Penn Law
Review. I read it some years ago and later while at Harvard had the
opportunity to hear Higginbotham's thoughts about "Brother
Clarence" (to quote him). The NY times wrote in '92:

"An Open Letter to Justice Clarence Thomas from a Federal Judicial
Colleague" created an enormous buzz when the University of
Pennsylvania Law Review published it in January 1992. Written by A.
Leon Higginbotham Jr., chief judge emeritus of the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Third Circuit, it was part history lesson and part
admonition. Crafted with scholarly precision, it contained eighty-
five footnotes and numerous citations of important court cases. But
the essence of it read like a stern grandfather lecturing his
bullheaded grandson: Don't forget the roots of your success, boy, and
the responsibilities you have to those who paved your way."

For those interested, I found the PDF and I think it's the same
version that appeared in Morrison's book. It's worth the read.
Kris D. Gutierrez
Social Research Methodology
Graduate School of Education & Information Studies
Moore Hall 1026
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1521

Address for the Academic Year 2006-07

Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences
75 Alta Road
Stanford, CA. 94305-8090

On Jul 8, 2007, at 8:02 AM, Paul Dillon wrote:

> Peter,
> 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.
> Paul
> 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.
> /opinion/story.shtml/29181615/x01/default/empty.gif/
> 343462653332616634363432
> 65383630?>
> 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
> percent.
> 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
> black."
> 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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