*Since 1991, there hasn’t been a more polarizing political figure in America than Associate Justice Clarence Thomas.
He is a man whom we really don’t know much about personally except his horrific voting record and his quiet dissention on all cases beneficial to minorities.
He conjures up negative emotions for many in this country because of his conservative viewpoints that are diametrically opposed against advancement of people of color.
He has been the butt of many jokes, barred from speaking at various schools, called an “Uncle Tom” recently by Congressman Bennie Thompson; more than 20 years ago his caricature graced the cover of a now defunct “Emerge Magazine” where he donned a handkerchief head in the issue and a jockey uniform in a following installment.
Even before, he was confirmed onto the Supreme Court, he faced great odds. The country stood at stand still as Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment. We all had to endure testimony about prior conversations between the two about “pubic hair” on a soda can. His senate confirmation hearings were the beginning of a liberal and conservative cold war that still lingers on to the detriment of progress in this country today.
From the start his career, Clarence Thomas wanted nothing to do with race and affirmative action, yet his track record of career advancement reeks of it from Yale law school and the irony of his appointment to the EEOC by Ronald Reagan. Thomas was a so so legal eagle, who because of perfect timing and the color of his skin was nominated to replace the legendary Justice Thurgood Marshall by President George Bush.
Senator Joseph Biden and other democratic senators dug deep into Clarence Thomas past in the hearings, Thomas and his sex scandal made the daily headlines. He also stepped out of character and cried racism declaring that he was a victim of a “high tech lynching,” using his blackness when it was convenient.
At the time, African American’s cried foul over his selection and rightfully so. Back then; the consensus thinking was to appoint a judge who would continue to ensure that cases and policies affecting minorities would have a voice in that chamber.
In a passage from Thomas’ memoir “My Grandfather’s Son,” he wrote:
“The problem with my analysis, of course, was that it was of no help to those black students who had already finished school and now found themselves unable to pass the bar exam. But the adverse-impact theory had its own built-in problem, which was that its advocates appeared to be suggesting, knowingly or not, that blacks could never catch up with whites. Neither alternative was attractive to me, and I had no easy solution of my own to offer, but at least I’d thought the problem through for myself instead of jumping to a quick and easy conclusion that might be emotionally satisfying but failed to fit the facts. This, I decided, was the right way to approach any problem that excited my passions, and if it led me to disagree with the solutions that were generally accepted, or to advocate positions that would make me unpopular–especially when it came to matters of race –then so be it.”
This is the major dilemma for Justice Thomas, having to follow a class act like Thurgood Marshall who stood for fairness for all people. Now we have Clarence, who stands for nothing!
There are have been many black conservatives over the years such as Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglas, Armstrong Williams, Colin Powell, Carl Rowan, Larry Elder and they haven’t drawn the same level of condemnation.
Because Clarence Thomas is a self-hating disappointment to everyone, a failed experiment conjured up by the right wing Republican Party. His conservative brethren were embarrassed by the democratic led confirmation hearings, liberals hate his views and blacks hate him for all of the above. He was and is the epitome of a man without a country.
In a excerpt from his memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son.” He wrote: “Sen. Danforth wanted me to come join his staff. I said I was interested, so long as I wouldn’t have to work on civil-rights issues or matters involving race. Though I cared deeply about these issues, I knew I wasn’t yet ready to expose myself to the bruising criticism that would follow once my views became known.”
For what was and still is at stake for minorities he sat quietly on the sidelines either dissenting or voting for cases that could prove to undo some major advances by African American’s in this country.
Capehart goes on to say, “its not okay to call anyone a Uncle Tom.” I think both men need to know a little more about “Uncle Tom,” who was a fictional character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
In the book, old Tom was a Christian pacifist who wanted it to be a colorless world and lived his own life that way despite being a slave. He wasn’t a roadblock to the slaves in the story fleeing to the North nor did he tell the slave master. He even endured a beating in order to protect a young girl. Although, his inherent submissive behavior never allowed himself to even attempt an escape he still supported those slaves who did. Beecher intended for the character to have a moral compass above his vicious slave master.
Black people came to revile the character as the epitome of weakness and a sellout. In the case of Clarence Thomas, he hasn’t shown a moral compass or provided any type of support for African Americans on any level from his days at the EEOC to his perch at the halls of justice in the Supreme Court.
No Thomas is not an “Uncle Tom,” who was a misguided character; he is however a Benedict Arnold, a man who’s very name stands for betrayal of country. Benedict Arnold spurned by fellow generals and passed over for promotion felted spurned by the Americans and joined the British Military as a brigadier general. There are great similarities in these two men both were in over their heads and both ended up being pariahs and men without a country. Arnold on his deathbed regretted his turncoat action against his own country but history will never be kind to him.
Thomas has a chance at redemption if he wants it and he must do the right thing the next time he is presented an opportunity or the passage of time may change during the next generation from “Uncle Tom” to perhaps “Uncle Clarence.” Thurgood Marshall is watching from up above Mr. Thomas. The next chess move is yours.
Thomas Gibson, is a documentary filmmaker, writer and veteran television producer. He is currently, the Executive Producer of “Music Revolution” on STARZ! and the director of the coming documentary titled “City of Syrup.” Contact him at: [email protected].