Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Clarence Thomas: An Angry Black Man

I have always liked Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Even though he rarely writes opinions or says anything from the bench, probably because he's less educated than the other justices, I am grateful that we have someone on the Court who votes in lock-step with Justice Scalia instead of an independent thinker who can't be relied on. But watching Thomas being interviewed on 60 Minutes and glancing at excerpts from his new book My Grandfather's Son and Jeffrey Toobin's book The Nine, both of which I have not actually read, I was struck by how angry he seems to be. It's almost as if he were auditioning for the role of the token black roommate on The Real World who ends up getting kicked out of the house. He seems so full of rage, and even potentially violent, that if I were walking down a dark street at night and he were walking toward me, I think I would be tempted to cross the street to avoid him just to be on the safe side.

Why is Clarence Thomas such an angry black man? Hasn't he actually been quite fortunate, rising from a difficult childhood to a spot on the highest court in the land? Frankly, his book sounds like a long pity party, a tedious list of grievances about how the world has treated him badly just because he is an African-American. Thomas is still angry about his Senate confirmation hearings, which at the time he called "a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks." He lashes out at Anita Hill, "an average employee whose behavior could sometimes be irritating, rude, and unprofessional," he says, who "succumbed to a combination of ego, ambition, and immaturity." And he still hasn't forgiven the mainstream media and refused to give interviews to Supreme Court reporters, whom he called "clowns" at a dinner he recently held for a number of prominent conservative bloggers, to which I was not invited (but I'm not bitter about it). Thomas's confirmation hearings took place 16 years ago and that seems to be an awfully long time to hold a grudge. Get over it already!

It's possible that I am wrong about Justice Thomas (and if I had not been slighted by being left off the guest list of the dinner he held for bloggers and gotten a chance to meet the man in person, I might feel differently). Wendy Long, who writes the National Review's Bench Memos, disagrees with my characterization of Thomas, though she puts it in dry, sophisticated legal language: "Justice Thomas is summed up by the 'A' word -- not 'angry,' but 'awesome.'"

But his confirmation hearings aren't the only thing he seems bitter about. He thinks that people treated him unfairly just because he got into Yale through affirmative action, which he now opposes, over more qualified white candidates. "That degree meant one thing for whites and another thing for blacks," he told 60 Minutes. Does he consider the possibility that there was some other reason besides being black that accounts for his difficulty in finding a job after graduation, such as his demeanor in interviews or the way he dressed or the fact that by his own admission at that time he was one of those radical blacks? Eventually, Thomas came to believe that affirmative action and other government programs designed to help blacks create a "cult of victimization" and if you want to see an example of this phenomenon, look no further than Justice Thomas himself, who seems to constantly see himself as a victim.

Like a lot of black people Thomas invokes ancient history as a way of guilt-tripping white people. He complains about growing up under segregation, which was outlawed more than 40 years ago and which I had nothing to do with. Am I supposed to feel guilty about a system that existed before I was born? In Jeffrey Toobin's book Thomas is quoted as asserting "my right to think for myself, to refuse to have my ideas assigned to me as though I was an intellectual slave because I'm black." Why is it that black people are always bringing up slavery when it was abolished almost 150 years ago? Maybe he should read Michael Medved's article, which shows that slavery really wasn't as bad as people say it was and may actually have been a net plus for blacks. You don't see Medved, who is Jewish, complaining about the bondage of Hebrews in Egypt and blaming it for the fact that most people don't respect him as a film critic. And I'm not complaining about the fact that my invitation to the blogger's dinner with Justice Thomas was apparently lost in the mail even though it happened just this week and the sting of that personal insult still lingers.

There was a time when racism was a big problem in this country, but that was years ago. As far as I know there hasn't been a single high-tech lynching in this country since Thomas's 1991 confirmation hearings and very few low-tech ones since then. To tell you the truth, some of the things Clarence Thomas says don't sound all that different from the rhetoric of race hustlers like the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. If Thomas has suffered so much for being black, then how was he able to pull himself up by his own bootstraps and get on the Supreme Court in the first place? Being black did not keep the first President Bush from appointing him. The first President Bush, who like most conservatives is completely colorblind, just picked the most qualified person in the country and probably didn't even know Thomas happens to be black.

But for Thomas, it seems, everything comes down to race. "It's fascinating that people, there's so many people now who will make judgments based on what you look like," he told 60 Minutes. "I'm black. So I'm supposed to think a certain way. I'm supposed to have certain opinions. I don't do that. You don't create a box and put people in and then make a lot of generalizations about them."

If I had received an invitation to the blogger's dinner with Justice Thomas (and not been basically slapped in the face) I would have given him some advice. I would have told him that he should stop playing the race card and using race an excuse for his own personal failings. It's time he took responsibility for his own actions and not interpret every slight as a racist attack. Sometimes a noose or a burning cross is just a noose or a burning cross. Maybe he should try acting more like Jackie Robinson and less like Isiah Thomas and see how people treat him. Perhaps when he is in a restaurant, he would get better service if he was polite instead of asking for the motherf---ing tea, and left a bigger tip. He would probably have an easier time hailing a cab if he tried not to look so aggressive and menacing so that the drivers didn't feel threatened and think he was going to rob them. If he didn't go shopping wearing baggy clothing that made him look like someone from the ghetto who was there to shoplift, salespeople probably wouldn't follow him around the store. And above all, maybe he should stop acting like the world owes him something just because he's black.

Correction: The picture that originally accompanied this post was of Thurgood Marshall and not Clarence Thomas. I'm not sure how I got them mixed up (though they do look a lot alike). I regret the error.

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Anonymous said...

Jon, you've got some sack. Don't you know the liberals are all whining for Thomas's blood. You should be ashamed. In a time of race war, to attack our President's man, etc. etc.

Anonymous said...

Look, Swift, first you say he's a "...less educated...token...Grandfather's son..." (and I have it on tape because I read your post into the little microphone on the side of my cassete deck -- all you have to do is press the play and record buttons at the same time -- and you better believe this one's going straight over to Brock's site).

And, one minute and thirty-five seconds later (I know because my deck has one of those counter things) you try to weasel out of it, like the baby gourmet degenerate you are, by saying you thought he was Thurgood.

You won't get out of that by claiming you're an "originalist" 60's "problemist" on race. You didn't say it but clearly implied that Justice Thomas is a "...phony...Tony..." (I have that on tape too, by saying "ellipsis ellipsis ellipsis phony ellipsis ellipsis ellipsis Tony ellipsis ellipsis ellipsis" into the little microphone at 57 seconds -- a painful little dub for maximum meme).

No Clear Channel or AFR for you Jonny, we've got a letter completely ellipsis-free and we're going to deliver it by hand so no one can twist it. We went out and got a General too.

PoliShifter said...

What? No Burma/Myanmar post? Why you dissing Burma?

Ok, seriously, here is an awesome post by First Draft regarding Clarence Thomas

I am suggesting it for your Crooks and Liars blog roundup if you're still doing that.

Mocking the killing of a mockingbird

"I read the WaPo piece on how in his book, Clarence Thomas, cites To Kill a Mockingbird to cast his ordeal with that of Tom Robinson. This news prompted me to re-watch the To Kill a Mockingbird DVD from a new perspective and my mind was blown. Just look!"

You must go look at the post! Brilliant!

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about mixing up the photographs. All black people look the same anyway. I just don't understand what Mr. Thomas is so upset about. The darkies used to be happy to be elevated to the position of house Negro.

Miss Cellania said...

If I had a blogger party, I'd invite you.

Anonymous said...


I was with a great deal of bitterness that I read your piece on Justice Clarence Thomas, for I was the more qualified Yale applicant that was passed over so that he could enter the University.

I am a life long conservative who believes in doing things the old fashioned way. That is why I disciplined myself to study hard (GPA = 4.0!), save my money, and pass as a white person, in order to attend that prestigious Ivy League school. I can't begin to tell you how may Bar Mitzvahs I had to endure as a young man. Not that I regret this; I knew that it was as sacrifice that I had to make to gain entry into a traditionally racially segregated organization (by which I mean, not Yale, but the Skull and Bones Society).

Imagine my distress when at the very moment of my triumph I was elbowed aside by Clarence Thomas, who was registered under some sort of Liberalist racial quota. I ended up having to attend a second tier Ivy League school and after graduation have had to settle for running a cheesy neo-con think tank, while this upstart has taken my rightful seat on the Supreme Court.

And the irony is, I don't even believe that Justice Thomas is really Black. I mean, look at those suspenders! He is quite like just one of many dark skinned Caucasians who have managed to jump aboard the affirmative action gravy train.

As far as I am concerned, Clarence Thomas can kiss my natural Off White ass.

Anonymous said...


I see now that in my righteous anger I made some typos in my post. But there is something about Justice Thomas that drives me mad. That ties he's wearing alone drives me mad.

Doesn't he know that people ALWAYS despise the victim? (I learned this when after screwing my wife on our divorce settlement she then lost all of her friends because she whined about it incessantly.)

Anonymous said...

Jon Swift wrote: " But watching Thomas being interviewed on 60 Minutes and glancing at excerpts from his new book My Grandfather's Son[Photo] and Jeffrey Toobin's book The Nine[Photo], both of which I have not actually read, ..."

Hi Jon.

I followed the link you provided to your Amazon reviews of the books you haven't read: the reviews which you say you wish to preserve for posterity.

Although I have not actually read your reviews of the books you have not actually read, I think we should all be grateful to the Internet and to computer science for providing bloggers ("Trolls", as they used to be called in the early days of the Net) with a way of digitally perpetuating their own virtual image; even if they are forced to pay for the bandwidth themselves.

That way, they may mock others and admire themselves to their heart's content, and never ever be troubled with the tedious labor of reasoning about issues.

Reasoning can be so boring; and as we all know, it is conceived by the progressive mind as a mere evolutionary tool of calculation anyway.

In the final analysis, reason's no more than a technique to be used to get what you want out of others.

For, as every good progressive knows, life is not about reason, but about appetite satisfactions and the "just" social distribution of the spillover costs of pursuing those satisfactions: no matter how absurd, bizarre, distorted, or dysfunctional those appetites may appear to be to a reaonable person. (Say for example, to a "reasonable conservative" like yourself!)

This of course does not mean that we should judge the progressive. We shouldn't. But if we must judge them we are told, then we must do so by those old-fashioned principles of moral charity which they themselves reject.

This is a well-know rule.

Even if there is no God, and even if all metaphysics are mere superstition with a philosophical patina, we are still obligated to act as if the lefty shares some fundamental and essential humanity that amounts to more than an arbitrary typology. And even if there is some seeming evidence that they are a kind of genetic mutant preying on the rest of the "race" from within, we still must pretend. It's the rule.

There might even be a good reason for that rule for all I know.

Now, all that said, and all those genuflections having been made to archaic principles that no good modernist left or right can take seriously (unless he needs to reassure the leftists in the polity that they are really, really, honestly, regarded as fellow humans); it is interesting to consider how the logic would roll out if we applied the principle of utility to the progressives, in the same way that they apply it to everyone else ...

But then, as we all know, that is not permitted.

Anonymous said...

That Clarence Thomas is a Negro comes as a complete surprise to me.

Are you sure we are talking about the same Clarence Thomas? US Supreme Court Clarence Thomas?

Anonymous said...

Hipple, Rev. Paul T. said...
That Clarence Thomas is a Negro comes as a complete surprise to me.

Are you sure we are talking about the same Clarence Thomas? US Supreme Court Clarence Thomas? >>>

Why would you be surprised?

Sobek said...

It's easy to tell the difference between Thomas and Marshall. Marshall is the guy who voted in lockstep with Brennan.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if the correction comment was sincere or swift-ian, but either way it was hilarious.

I like to read it both ways simultaneously.

Porlock Junior said...

Hate to spoil the party with serious praise, but I gotta say, if there's a Koufax for Viewpoint Mashup, this is a shoo-in.

[Late-posted comment because this blog tends to hang my Firefox, so I aproach it with caution and procrastination, to my own disgruntlement.]

I've read paragraphs by the late Murray Kempton -- hell, sentences! -- that would begin with one subject and point of view, and tiptoe through 3 or 4 more, each requiring some analysis and perhaps background research to find out what it was about and whether the viewpoint taken was the one expressed or the opposite or something else, ending God knows where; and it's splendid, like beating yourself with birch branches and running out into the snow at the end of the sauna. Really.

But this truly conservative treatment of the self-pitying colored guy who thinks all his troubles are because people are prejudiced against him requires one to hold it up to a mirror so many times that one loses track of right and left. Splendid.

Constructive Feedback said...

Excuse me - by what measure do you make the case that Clarence Thomas is "less educated" that the other members of the Supreme Court who just happen to be......all White?

Law Schools Attended
Clarence Thomas: Yale
Ruth Bader Ginesburg: Columbia
John Roberts: Harvard
John Paul Stevens: Northwestern University Law
Antonin Scalia Harvard
Anthony Kennedy Stanford
David Souter : Harvard
Stephen Breyer: Harvard
Samuel Alito: Yale

Might the problem be that our long time oppressors have taught you how to hate a fellow Black man?

bjkeefe said...

The only thing to say about your correction is that when I read it, my mouth contained no fluid. Therefore, I was able to continue possessing a clear monitor and working keyboard.

Anonymous said...

Listen to the Rush interview with Clarence Thomas and then apologize for your post. It will be easy, trust me.

moneymonk said...

"You don't see Medved, who is Jewish, complaining about the bondage of Hebrews in Egypt and blaming it for the fact that most people don't respect him as a film critic."

Genius, man. Genius.

Anonymous said...

I haven't actually read this whole post, but it really sucks ass.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha, you are very funny, Mr. Swift. Are you related to "The" Mr. Swift? I like your sense of humour.

Anonymous said...

Thomas is my dream man!!!!May be I should meet him???

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