This is the problem with allowing only one black person into your little club, be it your country club, your journalistic publication, or your Supreme Court. When you have only one black voice, the brilliant diversity of thought and opinion within the black community can be reduced to Samuel L. Jackson playing Steven, over-laughing and telling you exactly what you want to hear.
Or it can be reduced to one dude on a revenge jihad.
Regardless, if you are only going to let one black person in, it kind of matters who you let in. And that’s why so many people who believe in the advancement of civil rights have such a visceral, negative reaction to Clarence Thomas. It’s not because Thomas isn’t “black enough.” It’s not because he’s a “sell out.” Those are stupid terms that don’t really apply to Thomas anyway.
The problem with Thomas is that despite being the lone black voice in the institution of government that is best positioned to protect minority rights against the vagaries of majority rule, Thomas’s approach to racial justice can best be summed up as, “I got mine, screw the next generation.” The man is so unable to overcome the racism visited upon him that he holds the perverse view that laws that help minorities magically hobble them. Yet he’ll allow majority rule to hobble black people as they see fit. He thinks that the law singles out people as different, as opposed to the somewhat self-evident truth that people define others as different, and then use those distinctions to discriminate. He was hurt by white people thinking that he only got somewhere “because of affirmative action,” but instead of just dealing with it, he now seeks to block the path for others to follow in his footsteps.
Thomas might not want to be a “minority leader,” but he is by simple fact of his important position. Don’t take my word for it, take Justice Scalia’s. Personally, I think that Scalia is more than capable of coming up with his racist BS on his own, but the man just
blamed praised Thomas for “leading” his thoughts down a more asinine path.
But it shows why it matters so much who you let in when you only let in one. And it shows why Thomas has been such a colossal failure as a successor to Thurgood Marshall….
As we discussed after oral arguments on the Voting Rights Act, Scalia is on a kick to make voting safe for white people. I’ll care about voting rights for white people when black people run off a string of 44 consecutive presidents or something, but Scalia (and Chief Justice Roberts) seem to really think that the best way to stop discrimination towards white people is to start discriminating against black people like they did in the good old days.
Whatever. I don’t go to Justice Scalia looking for fundamental racial fairness. Whether or not he likes black people on a personal level, his jurisprudence is hostile to the notion of preventing whites from discriminating against blacks. This is not news.
What is news is what he said at the University of California Washington Center, according the WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.). Scalia did his usual stand up routine about how the Voting Rights Act is discriminatory because it doesn’t protect white people — while conveniently forgetting that white people were not systematically prevented from voting in large parts of this country during his own living memory.
But you know, I don’t get to live in a world where I can expect a conservative like Scalia to have even a modicum of respect or understanding about the racism in this country that is still very much alive today. It’s sad, and it bothers me that I can’t expect Scalia to even be sensitive to it. But I can’t, and he’s not, so f*** it.
The pill is a little more tough to swallow when the disrespect and myopic vision comes from a black man who has the honor and the power to actually make a difference. I therefore really noticed Scalia’s comments about Clarence Thomas:
Other questions involved matters of particular interest to lawyers and inveterate court watchers. One student asked if it was true that Justice Clarence Thomas, after joining the court in 1991, was the one who led Justice Scalia to the right, rather than other way around.
“Yes, it is true,” Justice Scalia said, suggesting that in the 1990s the news media unsuccessfully tried to pressure Justice Thomas to moderate his positions by painting him as a pawn of Justice Scalia. But behind the scenes, “what happened was I had followed Clarence.”
Now, this is Scalia we’re talking about, so I don’t actually believe what he says here. Scalia has consistently shown himself to be willing to say anything at all to make a point, and I could totally see him saying this in that stupid “a black person passed off on this, so I’m not a racist” way that racists do sometimes.
But it seems to me that people can’t help but be influenced in one way or another by their colleagues, especially when people are colleagues for decades.
Especially if that colleague is the only “one” of that background that you work closely with.
Again, I’m fairly confident that Scalia is quite capable of coming up with dumb ass things to say about the Voting Rights Act all on his own. I’m quite sure he’d be of the same “white makes right” position if he had been sitting next to freaking Johnnie Cochran for 20 years. Though one imagines that Cochran wouldn’t allow Scalia to play the “I have black friends” game.
When the most powerful black jurist of a generation can be used so easily as cover by the Antonin Scalias of the world, it matters. It’s a problem.
It’s okay to have Bill Cosby when you also have Richard Pryor. It’s okay to have Will Smith if you also have Jamie Foxx. But if you are only going to let one brother into the club, you want Eddie Murphy, not Buckwheat.
I’m sure tight-ass white Catholics who think God wants them to have a litter of children would get it if I could say that Scalia has led me to believe that condoms should be given out in church. I’m sure Italian-Americans would get it if Scalia was mobbed up. When you only get one representative on this august body, you want that one to represent the best of your community — not the self-loathing representative who seems to exist to prove Chris Rock’s point that black people are more racist than white people “because they hate black people too.”
Nobody expects Chief Justice Roberts to actually give a crap about what happens to black people in this country, and that’s lucky, because he doesn’t. Neither does Scalia.
And neither does Clarence Thomas. He’s so afraid of being pigeonholed as a “black jurist” that he has abdicated any responsibility W.E.B. DuBois might have expected of him, trying his best to be “post-racial” and not piss any white people off (the same might be said of President Obama, but I want to see where we are in 2016).
I wouldn’t expect Thomas to do any different, but for the fact that he’s the one black person in a position to actually make a difference on the highest court in the land. How many people have fought and bled for racial justice so that Thomas can sit there like a deaf mute and not give a crap about it?
Scalia Calls Voting Act A ‘Racial Preferment’ [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]