Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Passion of Uncle Thomas


















Let it go, Justice Thomas.



Clarence Thomas is hopping mad. Still.

Recently, Thomas appeared on 60 Minutes to shill his new autobiography, defend himself against allegations that he may be a sellout, and publicly pick the ugly scab that was created during the Anita Hill hearings. Of course, if he'd chosen to leave this last item off of his To Do List, I don't think any of us would have held it against him. Long before Isiah made news, an older, equally defiant Thomas was being publicly accused of sexual harassment and making unwanted advances. His successful defense against these charges, and his subsequent decade-and-a-half long judicial Campaign of Terror haven't dulled his temper. That's right. Even a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court and the knowledge that he is safely ensconced in one of the world's most uniquely powerful positions does not soothe the seething soul of Clarence Thomas. The man is still bitter, and waiting for him to move on might be a bit like leaving the porch light on for Jimmy Hoffa (incidentally, Thomas' wife, Virginia, has stated with a straight face that she thinks Anita Hill should issue an apology. Word is Hill might consider it only if she and Clarence can spend some quality time together sharing cans of Coke and watching old videos).

Despite the title of this post, I certainly don't intend to waste a lot of space calling Clarence nasty names. Also, I won't bore anyone by rehashing any of Clarence's maniacal (believe me, if Antonin Scalia thinks you're a wackjob you've got issues) and well-known beliefs. I mean, if Justice Thomas believes that the entire New Deal was unconstitutional who am I to argue? Well, OK. I do have a response to one of his statements. It's a single, oft-repeated, anti-affirmative action argument - one that Clarence Thomas has made for many years now.

It goes something like this: Affirmative Action is a bad idea because it lowers the self-esteem of those very people who it is supposed to help. It does this by subjecting black people to the skepticism of whites who may believe that blacks did not earn jobs based on merit. Whites will view their black coworkers with suspicion and this, in turn, will have a deleterious impact on the psyche of blacks.

I usually offer the following relatively simple, two-part counter to this supposition.

1) When it comes to our financial well-being, despite popular opinion, we black folks don't really care what white people think. The 'damaged psyche' argument as well as the line of thinking that sparks it reveals a couple of things. When it is employed by whites, it concedes an extreme arrogance and, when used by blacks, it betrays a pathetic dependence on white approval. Honestly, when it comes to my career or my paycheck, white people's assessment of my competence doesn't factor. And why should it? Do you think that George W. Bush has EVER lost a minute of sleep because he was plagued by the idea that maybe some folks assume that he is less than competent and that his career success just might have something to do with his daddy (on a semi-related and bizarre note, apparently, being the President's daughter also makes one a qualified, publishable author)?

2) I'd rather have people initially saying that I'm a quota hire or incompetent than to be unemployed. Perhaps Dave Chappelle dissected this subject best when he quipped, "Hey. It's better than people saying, 'That Nigga's broke!'" Besides, it's been my experience that once a person fully seizes a position, his coworkers care less about how he got the job than whether or not he can do the job properly. In these situations, excellence tends to accelerate amnesia - and, later, even bring about respect. If I have to choose between accepting a position for which my coworkers initially assume I'm unqualified and checking my email for daily monster.com job notices, I'll take my chances with the J.O.B., thank you very much.

In any event, while watching the 60 Minutes interview it occurred to me that black conservatives interpret racism differently than other African-Americans. For most black folks, racism is institutional. It is a pervasive, systemic problem for which a systemic solution is needed. For the black conservative, racism is simply a personal affront - less like a plague and more like a smart bomb. They view racism as a series of individual beliefs and acts committed by people who just can't seem to see them for who they are - Americans. As a result, they believe that personal efforts will be enough to neutralize the problem. Of course, none of this explains why Clarence Thomas continues to breathe life into stale, sixteen-year-old conflicts. Neither does it explain why he is easily the most detestable public black figure in the history of black America. Thomas himself claims not to understand it. Honestly, it's pretty simple. He's hated because he's guilty of committing the one crime that black folks will not forgive: in belief, word and deed he rejects us and our national reality. But I imagine he's too busy nursing his own wounds to consider that.

Edit: If you're interested in seeing what makes Thomas tick, instead of reading his apologist autobiography, I highly recommend Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas by Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher. It's both fascinating and highly readable.

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17 Comments:

At 12:14 PM , Blogger Breez said...

Short form response: Clarence Thomas is an imbecile.

More detailed: I found his O.J. "If I Did It" stance, interesting. What did her religious background or ablity to defend herself have to do with the price of rice? He made himself look like a joke. A very angry bitter joke, but a joke nonetheless. WACK SAUCE!

It was funny that he believes this wouldn't have happened if he were white. Jon Stewart mentioned this and pictures of Bill Clinton and ALL of his women popped on the screen. Ludicrous.

 
At 12:15 PM , Blogger Breez said...

And as far as the "author," I didn't even know Gin-na could read.

 
At 2:11 PM , Blogger Stephen Bess said...

He's difficult to comprehend. Like many African Americans in/from Coastal Georgia, Clarence Thomas resembles his African past a great deal but where is the love? I remember when he spoke at my school (Savannah State University) back in 1990. It was right before the hearings. He was not a dynamic speaker, but he seemed to have a genuine love for Savannah and his roots in that region. This is what baffles me?? I heard Tavis talking about the new book. I don't know? Maybe I'll pick it up. Peace~

 
At 2:12 PM , Blogger Stephen Bess said...

...I would pick it up ONLY in a attempt to understand half of what's on his mind. Clarification.

 
At 2:28 PM , Blogger Another Conflict Theorist said...

Peace,

Breez - That Jon Stewart response was CLASSIC! I wish I'd seen it.

Stephen - If you really want to read anything about him I would recommend Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas by two brothers, Kevin Merida and Michael Fletcher. It's fascinating.

 
At 8:18 PM , Anonymous Ann said...

ACT.

Great site you have.

Loved this Thomas post. I said the same things in my comments on another blogger's website.

I'll look for that book on Thomas you recommended, "Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas" by Kevin Merida and Michael Fletcher.

It sounds like a great read.

 
At 8:23 PM , Blogger Unsane said...

This is an interesting blog.

 
At 12:17 AM , Blogger Clifton said...

My Brother...

You take a hiatus and come back with heat! I know you will understand when I say thank you for the new energy.

As far as Clarence Thomas is concerned, all brothers who come from the kind of background he does makes a choice to either embrace his journey or do everything he can to act like it never happened. Unfortunately Clarence took the second option and just happens to be on the highest court in the land.

 
At 1:55 AM , Anonymous Thought Merchant said...

New Blogger. Please come check the Posts Below and leave comments. Thank You

“How Bill Clinton Hurt The Black Poor, and Hillary
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“Maybe He’s Not Black Enough”

“What Ails Clarence Thomas”

“Why Blacks Should Think Twice About Supporting Ron
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At 5:31 AM , Blogger Another Conflict Theorist said...

Peace,

Ann - Thanks for stopping by. I hope that you enjoy the book as much as I did. It's really well-researched. A great read.

Unsane - Thanks, also, for dropping by.

Clifton - Thanks, brother. I'm just trying to be like YOU. You're doing GREAT work.

 
At 12:49 AM , Blogger Clifton said...

I take back all the kind words after you left that pro Chicago Bulls comment on my Isiah post..

 
At 2:43 PM , Blogger Villager said...

Excellent post. My first time visiting your blog. I like the vibe and plan to come back often.

peace, Villager

 
At 8:54 PM , Anonymous Karma said...

Great Blog.

Good news bad news, good news, Clarence Thomas actually cares about racism. Bad news, only if it affects him. And in the same breath, he's calling Anita Hill "mediocre." Okay, yeah, I think I know what he's trying to get across by that particular choice of words.

 
At 7:48 PM , Blogger MODI said...

Karma - LOL!

ACT, you completely NAILED this post!

"Do you think that George W. Bush has EVER lost a minute of sleep because he was plagued by the idea that maybe some folks assume that he is less than competent and that his career success just might have something to do with his daddy"

George Bush is the biggest affirmative action hire of ALL-TIME!

Also, completely agree with your analysis about the understanding personal vs. instituional bigotry as being the point of disconnect, Great post... just added to by blogroll

 
At 8:20 AM , Blogger Breez said...

Good morning Mr. Pott? This is Ms. Kettle. It would seem that it has been a week since we have received bloggage from you as well kind sir.

 
At 10:06 PM , Blogger bint alshamsa said...

For the black conservative, racism is simply a personal affront - less like a plague and more like a smart bomb. They view racism as a series of individual beliefs and acts committed by people who just can't seem to see them for who they are - Americans. As a result, they believe that personal efforts will be enough to neutralize the problem.

You know what? This is dead on. I won't even visit some of the message boards that I used to post on in the past because I'm so embarrassed about having made arguments that failed to take into consideration the institutionalized nature of racism. Growing up in a black conservative household is like living in the Twilight Zone but it wasn't easy to see that until after being away from it for a few years.

 
At 5:43 PM , Anonymous pink said...

I totally agree with your assessments of affirmative action. I gives not a damn what white people think about how I make my living as long as they don't eff with my paycheck.

 

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