Today, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas remarked that American society is too sensitive about race.
This coming from an African American man, born in the Deep South during Jim Crow. This from a Black man from Pin Point, Georgia, a small Black community founded by Black freedman after the Civil War.
Speaking at Palm Beach Atlantic University, he further stated that he was one of the first Black students to go to an all white school in Savannah, Georgia where “rarely did the issue of race ever come up.”
Justice Thomas, if you didn’t know, is one of the most influential Black conservative leaders in modern history. As a Supreme Court justice, he regularly exerts his judicial knowledge to deliver some of the most damaging legal opinions which serve to dismantle marginalized communities and cripple civil liberties.
In the infamous Citizens United case, he joined in the majority opinion which essentially reasoned that spending is protected under the First Amendment, and cannot be limited in the political arena, so long as corporations and other private organizations do not collaborate with political candidates (which never ever happens… ) Citizens United gave birth to super PACs, which completely defeat what little democratic integrity elections have left.
Justice Thomas also isn’t a fan of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The clause was instituted following the Civil War as a means to protect people of color from government sanctioned discrimination. The Fourteenth Amendment was passed along with the Thirteenth and Fifteenth Amendments (known collectively as the Civil War Amendments) which officially abolished slavery, and allowed for Black male suffrage, respectively.
Justice Thomas doesn’t believe that the Equal Protection Clause applies to race, and has used it to opine against affirmative action.
I could write a whole thesis dissecting Justice Thomas’ longstanding and controversial stances on race. But let’s move on.
Justice Thomas is regularly criticized, but his academic and professional accomplishments are certainly noteworthy. He holds a law degree from Yale, which is no easy feat, especially for a poor Black man from the Deep South. His career trajectory is also exemplary. Academically and professionally, he is a shining example of how diligence and sacrifice make for a compelling success story.
But where he fails is in his inability to uplift the community from which he hails.
Black people have the right to disagree with one another about how best to amplify our equity in the socioeconomic sphere. However, we are responsible for one another, and should be deeply disturbed when we see systematic racism further manifested through structural and institutional means. Justice Thomas, though legally talented, is one keg in the institutionalized racist machine.
No, I’m not calling him a racist. But I am calling him an apologist.
When he says that America is “too sensitive” about race, he denies the brutal history from which we, African Americans and people of color, unfortunately come from. I don’t need to cite the thousands, if not millions, of sources that irrefutably document slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, lynch mobs, etc in the American cultural space. I don’t need to list the expansive literature about the racist system on which this country is built. With a law degree from Yale, I’m sure he’s very familiar with the commentary already.
But he does need a refresher on how race in the 21st century translates today. It looks like Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin. It looks like modern day petting zoos and gentrification. It looks like duplicitous changes to voting rights. It looks like Richard Sherman’s “thuggery.” It looks like the tears of a Black man when racial slurs are hurled at him in a soccer stadium.
These incidents deserve our attention and recognition, and we’re not “sensitive” when we bring them to light. Instead, we are reminding this nation, that we are not as a close to a racially equal society which we like to be. We are encouraging all people to evaluate their actions and question their preconceived notions about certain racial groups. We are promoting a free society in which cross-racial exchange is both productive and positive.
This doesn’t happen if we stay quiet.
Justice Thomas is not an isolated incident; there are scores of people of color who continue prejudicial narratives by denying their mere existence, while clinging to a feigned belief in a colorblind society. This flawed network of social engineering is the direct result of centuries of racist oppression. White supremacy impressively dismantled communities by turning us against one another through special favors for some. Some were rewarded, which the majority perished causing resentment, jealousy, and strife that ultimately passed down through generations. The Rwandan genocide is a clear example.
The select few who were “favored” appreciated their relative comfort, became complacent, and eventually advocated on behalf of their oppressors. They were used as mascots for racist regimes; publicizing that the most brutal experiences were actually overstatements, and the subjects were genuinely happy.
I won’t even begin to get into the psychological and sociological underpinnings of such actions.
But make no mistake, such behavior fostered through the centuries, and today, we have people like Justice Thomas.
A man who impugns the cultural integrity of his ancestors.
We’re all “sensitive” about race because race, in itself, is a “sensitive” topic. It’s an invisible construct used to manipulate and subjugate classes of people. Race is the buttress of our cultural and national history. We can never talk about it “too much” if it fails to escape us in both our historical and present interactions.