The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas

The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas


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As the late Appeals Court Justice A. Leon Higginbotham pointed out at the time,

“He’s got a right to think whatever he wants to, but he does not have a right to be free

of critique.”  And a critique of Thomas shows . . .every job he has held, including his

appointment to the Supreme Court, was obtained, in part, because of his race.



Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas

By Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher

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A New Book on Clarence ‘The Lawn Jockey’ Thomas

Review by George E. Curry


Anyone who has followed my career knows how I feel about Clarence Thomas. In fact, Jack E. White, writing in Time magazine, said, “No matter what George Curry accomplishes during the remainder of his journalistic career, he will be remembered for one thing: he was the editor who slapped a portrait of Clarence Thomas wearing an Aunt Jemima-style handkerchief on a 1993 cover of Emerge magazine.”

White continued, “That shocking image outraged Thomas supporters, of course, but it crystallized the disgust that many African-Americans had begun to feel about the ultra-conservative legal philosophy of the U.S. Supreme Court’s only black member.”

Given my view of Thomas, I never thought I’d want to read a book on the supreme prick from Pinpoint, Georgia. However, I resisted the urge and this week read Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas. The only reason I read the book was because it was written by Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher, two friends who work at the Washington Post. They have done a superb job describing the many contradictions of Clarence Thomas.

After reading the book, I have one regret about that famous Emerge cover.

If I had an opportunity to do it over, I would tie the Aunt Jemima knot tighter. While criticizing African-Americans for embracing “victimhood,” the book portrays Thomas as the ultimate professional victim, at every turn claiming that people didn’t like him because of his dark skin, his broad lips, or his conservative ideology.

Recounting a 1998 speech before the National Bar Association, the authors note, “In remarks that veered from self-pity to combative, he maintained that the ‘principal problem’ he faces could be summed up in one succinct sentence: ‘I have no right to think the way I do because I am black.'”

As the late Appeals Court Justice A. Leon Higginbotham pointed out at the time, “He’s got a right to think whatever he wants to, but he does not have a right to be free of critique.”

And a critique of Thomas shows that while professing to oppose special treatment because of his race, every job he has held, including his appointment to the Supreme Court, was obtained, in part, because of his race.

“Every Thomas employer, from Danforth, who gave him his first job, to President George H.W. Bush, who nominated him to the Supreme Court, chose Thomas at least partly because he is black. Race is a central fact of his meteoric rise, and Thomas has alternately denied it and resented it—all the way to the top,” the book states.

To get to the top, to the Supreme Court, Thomas allowed his Right-wing handlers to misrepresent his past.

“‘The Pin Point strategy,’ some advisers dubbed it: file down the sharp ideological edges and keep emphasizing Thomas’ personal story of triumph over adversity,” the authors wrote. “. . . What the White House advisers didn’t know—or, perhaps, just ignored— was that Thomas’ connection to his birthplace was tenuous at best. His family’s house had burned down when he was six, and for most of his young life he was raised comfortably in Savannah by his grandfather, Myers Anderson, one of the black community’s leading businessmen.”

Although Thomas’ affection for pornography was disclosed during his confirmation hearings, the books details Thomas’ long and deep attraction to pornography. He told Dan Johnson, a Yale classmate, “My favorite movie of all time is Deep Throat. I’ve seen that [MF] six times.”

In the public arena, Thomas appears only before friendly audiences; he rarely speaks to Black organizations. He saw nothing wrong with officiating the wedding of conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh while sitting on the Supreme Court. The most incredulous assertion made by Thomas was that his actions benefit African-Americans. He told a visitor to the Supreme Court, “It’s unfair how black America criticizes me. I’m trying to help black America.”

Help us to do what? Return to slavery?

African-Americans are not fooled. According to a study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, cited in the book, a 1998 poll showed that Thomas had a favorable rating of just 32 percent, the worst numbers of any prominent African-American.

Judge Higginbotham said, “I have often pondered how is it that Justice Thomas, an African-American, could be so insensitive to the plight of the powerless. Why is he no different, or probably worse, than many of the most conservative Supreme Court justices of the century? I can only think of one Supreme Court justice during the century who was worse than Justice Clarence Thomas: James McReynolds, a white supremacist who referred to blacks as ‘niggers.'”

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George E. Curry (23 February 1947, Tuscaloosa, Alabama) to Martha Brownlee and Homer Lee Curry. His mother was a domestic worker and his father was a mechanic. George Curry attended Druid High School. He was a member of the school Board of Trustee and also editor of the school paper. After graduating high school, he attended Knoxville College in Tennessee. He was the quarterback and co-captain of the football team and the editor of the school paper for the sport section. He studied at Yale and Harvard University during two summers while still attending Knoxville College. In 1993 Curry published a bold depiction of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with an Aunt Jemima handkerchief on his head on the front cover. He served as New York bureau chief as a Washington correspondent. . . .

From 1993 to 2000 he was editor-in-chief of Emerge. This magazine won over 40 national journalism awards while under Curry’s leadership. His work with NNPA ranges from hearing oral arguments in the Supreme Court to visiting Doha, Qatar to write about the war with Iraq. During the fall of Baghdad he got the first exclusive interview with General Vincent Brooks. Curry is the past president of the American Society of Magazine Editors. In 2001 he became the editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service in Washington, D.C.—wikipedia

Source: Black Agenda Report

*   *   *   *   *

Clarence Thomas’ Dangerous Conceit—by Jonathan Turley—Los Angeles Times—6 March 11—Thomas appears to have finally merged his own personality with the institution itself. Thus, any criticism—even criticism that he is harming the court—is an attack on the institution. It is more than an embarrassing conceit; it can be a dangerous delusion for any justice.

The Supreme Court is not composed of nine Atlas-like jurists holding up justice in the United States. Rather, the foundations are laid in the rule of law, which speaks to all Americans in the same voice. The court is “credible,” to use Thomas’ word, because it is not the extension of the jurists themselves but the law that they are required to follow.

“I am the Court” sounds little better than “I am the State.” We will continue to “enjoy” the liberties of this nation not by the grace or grandeur of Justice Thomas but by the simple triumph of principle over personalities.—ReaderSupportedNews

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John Coltrane, “Alabama”  /  Kalamu ya Salaam, “Alabama”  / A Love Supreme

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Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas, the most powerful black man in America, has yet to get his due—Thomas retained a special anger for the aristocratic, generally lighter-skinned blacks who had looked down on him. That scorn, believe his biographers [Kevin Merida and Michael Fletcher], partially explains his jurisprudence, particularly his opposition to affirmative action, which disproportionately helps bourgeois blacks. Thomas’s humiliating Senate confirmation hearings only made him more bitter. . . .  He denounced blind racial loyalty, even as he confessed that he was pained “to be perceived by so many members of my race as doing them harm.” But Thomas said that he had no intention of changing his ways. He defiantly asserted “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.” . . .  Yet if Merida and Fletcher are to be believed, there is a tragic quality to Thomas, who “wears his blackness like a heavy robe that both ennobles and burdens him.” And they question whether, despite his yearning to be free, he can ever lay that burden down.—  Newsweek

*   *   *   *   *

Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

By Derrick Bell

In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school’s hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell’s fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard’s president and all of the school’s black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination.

Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell’s And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.—Publishers Weekly

*   *   *   *   *


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Representing the Race tells the story of an enduring paradox of American race relations, through the prism of a collective biography of African American lawyers who worked in the era of segregation. . . . Mack reorients what we thought we knew about famous figures such as Thurgood Marshall, who rose to prominence by convincing local blacks and prominent whites that he was—as nearly as possible—one of them. But he also introduces a little-known cast of characters to the American racial narrative. These include Loren Miller, the biracial Los Angeles lawyer who, after learning in college that he was black, became a Marxist critic of his fellow black attorneys and ultimately a leading civil rights advocate; and Pauli Murray, a black woman who seemed neither black nor white, neither man nor woman, who helped invent sex discrimination as a category of law. The stories of these lawyers pose the unsettling question: what, ultimately, does it mean to “represent” a minority group in the give-and-take of American law and politics? /

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The White Masters of the World

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update 1 July 2012




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