Point of View Columns

The Amazing Mr. Thomas

It is with a sense of involuntary amazement and fascination that one observes the life and career of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Being born in unimaginable poverty, his life narrative should be a testament to perseverance, overcoming, accomplishment and a clear commitment to success. However, Justice Thomas has used the platform of his career to not only attack and eviscerate the societal infrastructure that allowed him to succeed, he has also engaged in a view of his own life that alternates between neocon fantasy and unmistakable self-hatred.

Most recently Justice Thomas opined that in the modern era there is a baseless preoccupation with race in all phases of society. Choosing the ignore the racism and racist practices that are still found in America in 2014, he went on to say that life was actually better for black Americans in his home state of Georgia in 1960 than they are today.

Speaking at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Fla., Justice Thomas criticized a society that is more “conscious” of racial differences than it was when he grew up in Georgia – in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Clarence Thomas is entitled to his opinions, unfortunate as they might be.  But he is not entitled to his own set of facts.

In 1960 there were 1,133,596 black Americans living in the state of Georgia. There were no black members of the Georgia state legislature, no blacks elected to state-wide office and no black people representing Georgia in the United States Congress.

It is difficult to understand how Justice Thomas believes that a state where virtually one third of its population simply did not exist in the state legislature could be a virtuous occurrence. It is impossible to understand how life for black Americans in Georgia could have been better than today.

In 1964, Lt. Colonel Lemuel Penn, a black Army reservist completing two weeks of training at Fort Benning, Georgia, was shot gunned to death on a desolate highway in rural Georgia. The killers were acquitted by an all-white jury. A measure of justice was meted out when some of the killers were convicted under federal charges.

Again, it is impossible to find the logic or reason in the statement by Justice Thomas that black people were better off in 1960 when the random assassination of black Americans was part of the Georgia way of life. And Clarence Thomas grew up in an age when the lynching of black men and women in Georgia were not a distant memory but rather they were a part of yesterday’s news.

That Clarence Thomas engages in this obscene form of neocon fantasy should just be the subject of pity or scorn. But, as a sitting justice on the United States Supreme Court, it is more than troubling that someone with such a defective and demented sense of history is permitted to partake in decisions which not only affect black Americans, but every man, woman and child in this country.

If Clarence Thomas were to deny the Holocaust suffered by Jews in Europe he would be rightfully castigated as being absolutely unqualified to be a Supreme Court Justice. In such a case, any sitting justice who would deny such an awful reality could not be trusted to comprehend the truth in the present tense.

Similarly, for Justice Thomas to blithely deny the suffering, terror and degradation suffered by black Americans makes him unalterably unqualified to sit as a justice on the United States Supreme Court. He should be allowed to wallow in his alternative universe, but he should not be allowed to participate in ruling that will affect Americans for years to come.

In all likelihood Clarence Thomas will continue to spew his misstatement of history and to allow us to watch him self-indulgently engage in self-hate. Being that his appointment to the Supreme Court is for life, he should brace himself for more pity and scorn.

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