Judging Clarence Thomas
By Michael M. Bates
Much of the reaction to Clarence Thomas' new memoir, My Grandfather's Son, has centered on the justice's anger. You have to credit the mainstream media credit with consistency. Sixteen years after his confirmation to the Supreme Court, he's as disliked by them now as he was in 1991.
A Hearst Newspapers' columnist finds the book "the ultimate, most revealing act of hostility." A Washington Post Writers Group essayist asserts that in his volume, "Thomas reveals himself to be a Shakespearean archetype, consumed by rage."
On National Public Radio, the account is described as "a book of complete bitterness and rage." Over at the Washington Post, readers were first told that "Justice Thomas Lashes Out in Memoir" and a few days later learned: "To read Clarence Thomas' book is to be struck anew by the blast-furnace of his anger."
I read Justice Thomas' memoir today. It's captivatingly interesting and gives hope there are yet thoughtful, honorable people in Washington. The impoverished black child from the Jim Crow South matured to be his own man and observes himself candidly, warts and all.
Yes, Clarence Thomas expresses tremendous annoyance with some individuals and organizations. One of the people with whom he is most disappointed is himself.
The source of that discontent is breaking his word. Once was to his "Daddy," the grandfather who raised Clarence and brother Myers as his own sons, when Clarence dropped out of the seminary. The second time:
"I left my wife and child. It was the worst thing I've done in my life, worse even than going back on my promise to Daddy that I would finish my seminary studies and become a priest. I had broken the most solemn vow a man can make, the one that ends . . . as long as you both shall live. I still live with the guilt and always will."
Justice Thomas devotes space to Anita Hill, the woman who leveled sexual harassment charges that almost derailed his Senate confirmation. Frenzied feminists who only a few years later defended the indefensible Clinton got the vapors hearing allegations of chatting about pubic airs on Coke cans. The justice also takes to task deceitful pols such as Senator Joe Biden, who – hair plugs permitting - still aspires to higher office.
If I were Clarence Thomas, I'd be much more angry, bitter and enraged than he. Just consider some of the 1991 attacks against him, most not even mentioned in the book.
Spike Lee opined that "Malcolm X, if he were alive today, would call Thomas a handkerchief head, a chicken-and-biscuit-eating Uncle Tom." Columnist and Kennedy-Johnson appointee Carl Rowan wrote that if you put a little flour on Mr. Thomas' face, you'd think you were talking to one-time Ku Klux Klan wizard David Duke.
The chairman emeritus of the National Conference of Black Lawyers charged Clarence Thomas had betrayed his race. Democratic Congressman Charles Hayes of Chicago labeled the Supreme Court nominee an Oreo. Not to be outdone, Democratic Congressman Gus Savage of Chicago took a break from complaining about Jewish money to call Mr. Thomas an Uncle Tom.
Howard University's political science department chairman coincidentally noticed during the Thomas hearings that a controversy existed over black male conservatives marrying white women. Not to be outdone, Howard University's Afro-American studies department chairman declared that Judge Thomas' marriage to a white woman signified his rejection of the black community. And a USA Today columnist decided that Clarence Thomas "has already said if he can't paint himself white he'll think white and marry a white woman."
Gee, why would such treatment cause anyone to still be bitter? The metaphorical lynching of Clarence Thomas continued long after he moved to the Supreme Court. Another USA Today columnist said that she hoped his wife would feed him fattening foods so that he dies early "like many black men do." A Time correspondent wrote that Justice Thomas might be "the scariest of all the hobgoblins." An article last month on EbonyJet.com begins very matter-of-factly with the observation that Clarence Thomas doesn't care about black people.
Justice Thomas' real sin in the eyes of many critics is he doesn't see the world the way they want him to. He is a true independent thinker. That makes him a target for liberal condemnation and ridicule. When he writes opinions that include statements such as it never ceases to amaze him that the courts assume anything predominantly black must be inferior, they go apoplectic.
Clarence Thomas isn't dedicated to judicially legislating; his commitment is to the Constitution. His memoir is an inspiring affirmation of family, faith, hard work, principle, and courage.
Don't believe everything the mainstream media says about Clarence Thomas. I encourage you to read My Grandfather's Son and judge for yourself.
This Michael Bates column appeared in the November 15, 2007 Reporter Newspapers.