Wednesday, October 03, 2007

On Clarence Thomas - I Wonder What His Grandfather Would Say Now

Clarence Thomas gave an interesting interview on 60 Minutes this week...and he covered everything from his upbringing to his thoughts on race. I learned some interesting things that I had not known about the man. He is definitely an interesting character and he remains as controversial as ever.

Since I have gotten older I find myself falling somewhere in the middle on Thomas. On one hand I find his vehement opposition to all forms of affirmative action as being a little hypocritical. I myself don't like the idea of affirmative action in certain forms, such as quotas for example. However, affirmative action in its most healthy form reaches out to more minority workers, provides better access to interviews and knocks down barriers so that minorities can compete on a more even playing field. That kind of affirmative action (outreach, etc) is healthy. Quotas are not. And when it comes to affirmative action in education, I am more open to providing minorities with a shot. Although, again... I don't support such decisions being made simply on the basis of filling a quota. The student should show the ability to perform. But Thomas seems to reject all affirmative action and sees all of it as something negative, even though he benefited from it. In other words, it was as if he was saying that he regretted his success...or that he regretted the path that he took to become successful.

I am also more sympathetic to his views on being pigeonholed or put in a box and being expected to act, and think a certain way (by all, but especially by other Black Americans), simply based on having brown skin. Personally, I have always hated that.

On the other hand, he seems to understand the place that African Americans hold in history and understands the Black struggle and the struggle of the poor, and claims to help the poor & disadvantaged, yet his actions on the Court don't seem to correspond with his own understanding of (and experiences with) that struggle.

I also never believed that he was the best qualified person for the job of Supreme Court Justice, nor the best qualified African American. He was a candidate of convenience. As the 60 Minutes interview points out, there did not seem to be a serious competitive process for the position. George H. W. Bush (much more intelligent, and savvy than his dreadful Son), seems to have made a strategic choice of sorts by picking Thomas. Bush needed to put a Black face on his Conservative agenda. But then again, I wonder if Thomas was even the best qualified Black Conservative at the time.

As you can see, (as I mentioned) I fall somewhere in the middle on this man. After seeing the 60 minutes piece I should have been left with a clearer picture about him, but he is even more of a puzzle to me now than he was before.

One positive thing that Thomas (and others like Condoleeza Rice) shows to the American that Black people in this Country are not a monolith...that we don't think alike.
One problem with the program was that the host did not challenge Thomas on his record on the court.

Below is the 60 minutes piece with Justice Thomas (with 2 additional parts). And below that I have included an interesting Roundtable discussion hosted by Tavis Smiley. His guests are Marc Morial, Farah Jasmine Griffin, and Dr. Cornel West.

Part 1

View Part 2

View Part 3

Now for the response from Tavis Smiley and his special PBS Roundtable on Clarence Thomas


Constructive Feedback said...

Clarence Thomas' grandfather said to him constantly "Don't do anything to embarrass the race". He did not say don't do anything that a good number of Black people THINK is the wrong thing, however. If the fact that a particular political and ideological machine has MORE POWER than ever before over the Black community yet has failed to correct certain core issues that we have then CLEARLY it lends credence to my point that POPULARITY DOES NOT EQUAL EFFECTIVENESS.

Let us go down the list of sins that many Black folks HATE about Clarence Thomas:

They lament that Clarence Thomas would send a Black man to the electric chair but FAIL to have a passionate response about all of the DEATH SENTENCES rendered on the streets every day. You all call JUSTICE the fact that you have freed a Black man who was innocently convicted - or at minimum the DNA found did not match his YET there is little interest in FINDING THE REAL KILLER by the same group of people. This is a perversion. The Black Family who's loved one is now dead deserves justice. Those who attack Clarence Thomas for his stand on Capital Punishment say little about the NON-JUSTICE before us as unsolved Black on Black homicides continue to mount.

Clarence Thomas is torn to shreds for not supporting the program which, in their minds, is the only way that the average Black student can make it into an elite school. Where as the University of Michigan and Berkeley are for the best and the brightest.....these same people seem to fail to note that PROPORTIONALITY their investment of time would be better served in insuring that the WIDE MIDDLE of Black students get into school. Where as the Black academic elites are choosing between U of Michigan or the lesser Michigan State....the Wide middle is choosing between life with a H.S. diploma and college itself. CLEARLY a misallocation of resources. Some Black operatives would rather battle at the fissures with WHITE FOLKS than to build the infrastructure so that quantifiable more Blacks enter college and do so distributed throughout the states.

If only there was angst against the Black Killer/Drug Dealer/Ignorant Rapper/ Rapist/ Those who rob our young people of education by disrupting class. INSTEAD these people are said to be VICTIMS of society and thus ACTING OUT while Thomas is an operative who has turned his back on his own people.

I don't see this in this man.
Funny how the same people who are bothered that Thomas would rule in a manner that does not give preference to BLACK PEOPLE are the same people who want the Police and Juries to judge them AS THEY WOULD ANY OTHER AMERICAN.

This debate is not about what "harm" Clarence Thomas has done to Black people - it is what YOUR IDEOLOGY has done to allow certain things to run rampant.

With 10,000 to 16,000 Black elected officials today (Depending on which positions you include) it is Amazing how most of the criticism is focused on Clarence, Condi, Colin. Look at all of the districts that these others preside over and the "harm" that is occurring to Black people under their watch.

Constructive Feedback said...

Question for you Progressive-Fundamentalists:

Does a panel made up of Tavis Smiley, Cornel West, Marc Morial and this other woman have a chance in hell of rendering a judgment that is balanced and neutral?

I am more convinced as I live my life that White folks are not the only ones capable of rendering the ALL WHITE JURY who sits in judgment of someone who is different. With all of the talk about RACIAL DIVERSITY on the jury why didn't Tavis Smiley (the objective journalist) seek to have more balance on his jury panel?

rikyrah said...


This was a very thoughtful post.

As I get older, my contempt for Clarence Thomas grows, because now, I have a body of work to add to the original reasons of why I loathed him.

He's a self-hating Sambo. I don't see how he can be described as anything but that. And, usually, the Sambos can be left to their own devices, but he shuffled his way to The Supreme Court, which is WHY him being a Sambo is of importance to me.

Do you know that, in all the years he's been on The Court, he's not once asked a question during the case presentations?


Not only was he NOT qualified to be on The Supreme Court, he wasn't even qualified among Black Republican Jurists.

rikyrah said...

Cornel West was hilarious on Tavis Smiley. He was trying to be ' edjumacated' and 'philosophical' about Thomas, but I know, if it was just the two of us, splitting a nacho plate at Chili's, Prof. West would have been GOING OFF...LOL

dc_speaks said...

this was an interesting post. plenty of information being shared around these parts.

thanks for sharing and once again reminded me why I view Clarence Thomas the way I do...a cheesy smiling, double talking, foot washing, non man.

Constructive Feedback said...

Interesting that Clarence Thomas could NEVER get elected over a city or voting district nor school board that any of you live in YET the people that YOU ALL would be inclined to support HAVE DOMINEERING CONTROL over all Black Majority districts. Despite this - you are STILL COMPLAINING about the condition in your communities.

At the end of the day - Justice Thomas has a LIFETIME TERM. There is little that his HATERS can do to him at this point in his life.

Clearly the SELF-HATERS are the ones who believe that a BLACK MAN must think and act with regard to a given orthodoxy. They worry more about his conservative thinking and believe him to sound like a "White Right Wing Conservative". YET these same people are inclined to bring forth WHITE SUPREMACIST educational activist Jonathan Kozol who believes that the only way Blacks can be educated is to have us sit next to a WHITE KID. Yes - you are "real black" in my book.

So many attacks upon this man with so few actual comments about his ACTUAL RULINGS to base them off of.

Constructive Feedback said...


Marc Morial's opening comments:

"my problem with it is that he (Clarence Thomas) was not CHALLENGED".

This said to TAVIS SMILEY in a panel made up of The HERO Architect of New Orleans, A Marxist professor and a professor at ultra-liberal Columbia University.

It seems to me that TAVIS assembled an all-star panel in the way that the ALL WHITE JURY of the past didn't like to be CHALLENGED about where they should lynch the Black man on trial before them RIGHT NOW or wait until sundown.

And Tavis Smiley WONDERS why those Republicans with something to lose DID NOT show up at the Tavis and Tom debate last week.

In Tavis Smiley's view HE ASSEMBLED a FAIR panel to evaluate Clarence Thomas based on HIS OWN perceptions of the world.

Constructive Feedback said...

Oh My God Part II:

The Professor From Columbia said "There were no ALTERNATIVE VIEWS presented" (on the 60 Minutes interview) .........kinda like TAVIS SMILEY'S panel evaluating the book and interview of Clarence Thomas - huh?

Brian said...

Thanks Rikyrah...

But can you tell us how you really feel? :)

I agree that he was not the best qualified person that could have been chosen. It's clear that George H.W. Bush didn't have much respect for that seat.

Brian said...


You are painting with too wide a brush. You use the words "You all" much too liberally. You are doing the same thing that Thomas was talking about. As I have stated, we all don't think/act alike. We have our own views.

I can't explain why Tavis put together the panel that he did. You would have to as him.

I happened to like much of what they had to say, although I didn't agree with everything. It would be great if he could have another panel with some moderates and conservatives that there could be a debate.
I think this panel was more an effort to review the 60 minutes interview rather than to debate. Since 60 minutes didn't offer a rebuttal or alternative view...Tavis wanted to make sure that concerns from the other side were heard.
But I would enjoy seeing a panel set up with a wider range of viewpoints.

Brian said...

Thanks DC...

"A non-black blackman"... don't know if i'd go that far... That's one thing that he can't change. But he definitely seems to march to the beat of his own drum.

One part of the interview that threw me off was that damn laugh. He has a haunting laugh. I know you all heard it.... don't act like you didn't. :) Scared the hell out of me. I was trying to eat my dinner and almost dropped my food on the floor. That laugh reminds me of some kind of horror movie character. So in a sense, I guess the laugh suits him.

But on a more serious note...

I may revisit this topic at some point and really dig into his voting record on the Court. Doing that kind of research would take hours and hours of work... time that I don't have right now.
But this is what 60 minutes (and their folks who are earning 6 figures) should have done in the first place.

Constructive Feedback said...

Angry - love me or not.....CONSIDER the lack of ANALYTICAL details of the "All White Jury" meeting between Tavis and Friends.

Did you or any other poster note the STACKED DECK? Did it bother you that the "All White Jury" attacked 60 Minutes for not having an "array of voices" on their segment?

I fully believe that Tavis Smiley felt comfortable that in assembling his cast of characters that he was producing a TRUE AND ACCURATE picture of Clarence Thomas and that no other viewpoints could possibly be correct about this man....especially from a Black Person (me).

But - that's your boy.