Life story

Sanchez: Why Clarence Thomas’ Life Story Deserves Attention |

A little grace please, a few moments to consider Clarence Thomas thoughtfully.

It is understandable if it requires revolts.

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is unloved. Above all, contempt is earned.

He restored his image as a calcitrant man who rose to the highest court through timing. He was able to do so before so many of the most laudable changes in North American history.

Thomas is pre-#MeToo, which partly explains the horrendous treatment Anita Hill received during her confirmation hearing when she accused Thomas of sexual harassment, partly on the words of Senator Joe Biden, today President. Hill endured not only Thomas’ sexism when they worked together, but also the chauvinistic blunders of the Senate when she bravely stepped up to testify.

Thomas is also pre-#BlackLivesMatter and so many other ongoing efforts for social and economic equality, the struggles to get people to understand that racism is indeed embedded in our institutions.

The antics of his wife, Ginni Thomas, also make headlines. Her support for the right-wing fringes who stormed the US Capitol on January 6 should be strongly condemned, as well as her ties to far-right groups which are spawning calls for her husband to recuse himself from some cases.

But the couple are mostly in the spotlight now because Biden announced plans to appoint the first black woman to court, with Justice Stephen G. Breyer retiring.

Thomas is only the second African-American man to serve as a justice of the United States Supreme Court.

First, draw this fact for closer examination. The Supreme Court of the United States has existed for 232 years. And all the while, America’s elected officials, its courts, its law schools, and other routes to SCOTUS have never allowed more than two black people to reach that pinnacle of jurisprudence, both men.

The first was legendary civil rights scholar Thurgood Marshall. Marshall was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967, a time not unlike today’s heightened awareness of civil rights.

Marshall understood and accepted that he would be judged not just for his accomplishments, but for what he could accomplish for others, for the nation. He used the power of his written opinions to cauterize the wounds of legalized segregation.

Twenty-four years later, Thomas would find his way to court, appointed by George HW Bush.

People tend to dismiss him quickly, but Thomas’ life deserves attention.

There is no need to shoot a story. Despite his famously silent posture in court, rarely asking questions during the proceedings, Thomas has already shared a lot.

His autobiography should be required reading. It is as illuminating for the history of race in America as the stories of lives like that of Judge Marshall, which shed light on the attributes to be emulated. Thomas’ is a more uplifting tale.

Seek out Thomas’s 2007 book, ‘My Grandfather’s Son, A Memoir’ for a read on how racism grinds people down, eats away at self-esteem and their ability to accept goodwill when it is. offered.

Thomas does not tiptoe around the ugly. As a child, the double threat of poverty and racism almost brought him down. Some might say it cost a part of his soul.

He says he was abandoned by his father, sent to live with his grandfather with only a bag of groceries, cold and hungry, and was ridiculed by black classmates for being dark-skinned – ‘an ABC: America’s Blackest Kid.

Think about what society now knows about early trauma and the marks it can leave. Thomas writes fluently that he became bitter and angry because of the racism he faced, in seminary and in daily life. He admits to having tried to sprinkle it with alcohol. It is a powerful testament.

In recent years, Thomas has softened his disdain for Yale University, where he earned his law degree. He is going there now, no doubt as a sought-after speaker.

But in the book, he wrote about his deep regret that he put his race on his Yale law school application: that I was now at Yale because of it.

Unsurprisingly, Thomas eschews all forms of affirmative action, embracing the misconception that society can somehow be color blind. He believes that once a person accepts a preference because of their race, their accomplishments will always be suspect.

Affirmative action will soon come to court.

This way, the racism a young Thomas faced will return.

He, of course, lacks a great deal of understanding that it’s what someone does with the opportunity that matters most.

Time and thought have been credited with changing Thomas’ views of Yale itself. And in a way, he’s a credit to diversity efforts in that he shunned Ivy League employees, deliberately choosing among other educational institutions instead.

But more often than not, as society moves towards equality, Thomas mimics the blocking and avoidance that are also present.

Revere the work of Thurgood Marshall. Make way for the personal and professional accomplishment of the first black woman at court. But consider a study of the life of Clarence Thomas. It’s as indicative of America as the man himself.


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