SUPREME COURT ASSOCIATE JUSTICE
My friends know how I view Justice Thomas and it’s not complimentary. I don’t like Scalia either. Both of them are diehard conservatives so it’s no biggie that I’m not a fan of either. But as an African American Justice of the Supreme Court and given his often outlandish dissenting opinions, Thomas does not get a pass from me. I admit that I am biased against Thomas and have been from the time when I sat through three or four days of painful Judiciary Committee Confirmation Hearings after he was cynically nominated by George Hebert Walker Bush, our 41st President, to the Supreme Court. Anita Hill charged Thomas with sexual harassment and all sorts of indecent remarks towards her and a host of weird activities with sexual overtones in her presence while employed at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Thomas was the EEOC’s director and Anita’s boss.
At the time, I believed Hill and still do. For me, the bottom line at the time was this:
“Why would an intelligent African American woman expose herself to the ridicule, humiliation and embarrassment she must have known she would engender by testifying on national television against another African American who is a Supreme Court nominee? Her career, her future would surely be ruined."
I was appalled when Thomas proclaimed that he had been subjected to a “high tech lynching” thereby putting Anita Hill – and anyone who dared believe her story - on a par with the KKK who had a penchant for real time lynching’s not fantasy ones. Nominee Thomas' parting remarks at the end of the hearings were full of self-righteous indignation and volcanic anger about how badly he had been treated. It was a disgusting performance and one that I will never forget. It was, in fact, Anita Hill who had been treated by the Committee like some crazy, Black bitch, pariah lunatic. Not Thomas.
But his dissenting opinion in the Gay Rights Supreme Court Case deserves special consideration for being so widely off the mark. At least in my view. And while I find the entirety of Thomas’ dissent questionable, this part is nearly unbelievable:
“Human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.”
Justice Thomas holds (closely holds, I presume) a definition of “human dignity” that I just don’t fathom. Sure, I understand when he says “government cannot bestow dignity” because dignity is an integral part of human nature not like the right to vote or to patronize any restaurant of our choosing. But his government “cannot take it away” phrase defies logic. When, for example, a human being is tortured by government agents does this person still retain his dignity? All those signs throughout the Dixiecrat South preventing the use of a drinking fountain or a toilet or signs directing Colored people to the rear window of restaurants or to separate waiting rooms in bus and train stations – these government actions had no impact on the dignity of the people they were directed against? Slaves may have possessed innate dignity but what happens to that dignity while being whipped bloody or strung up like a side of beef from a tall plantation tree, such activities all being condoned by governments at the time? Really, Justice Thomas? Really?
I don’t understand Thomas. There is certainly nothing in his background, having been born in Georgia in 1948 and spending his early years in the South until he attended Yale’s law school that might explain his views. He had to have been both aware of and subjected to the racism and discrimination living as a Black man in the South at the time that were inevitable as breathing. He has noted that upon graduation he discovered that potential employers assumed that he had attended Yale based on affirmative action and not based on his abilities and so resented these attitudes that he pasted a 15 cent sticker on his degree to remind himself of it’s worthlessness.
Welcome to the club, Justice Thomas. You think you should have been treated differently from your peers in 1974 exactly why? Your superior intelligence? Your life long hard work? Your hard scrabble Southern upbringing? No, Justice Thomas. You were treated like virtually all of your peers who were intelligent, hardworking and had suffered at the hands of White Southerners at the time. So you don’t get a pass to pen dissenting opinions as if you were the only smart Black Yale graduate who was discriminated against after graduation. There are legions of others just like you who were betrayed by an ideal that was found wanting in the real world.
But frankly I have no idea why Thomas seems to hold the views that he does. If you have some insight into this, please let me know. And it’s not that I don’t grant him his idiosyncrasies or his views because they do not align with beliefs and views of most other Black people. Or of mine. No. I’m perfectly happy that Thomas Sowell and Ben Carson are not followers of the liberal ideals prevalent in the Black and liberal communities. They too have a right to their beliefs just as I do.
But Mr. Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Thomas, when you say that government cannot take away human dignity you are denying the human dignity of every single Black person who has preceded you who, for centuries, suffered and died under the killing yoke of racist and discriminatory laws passed by the Federal government and state governments all across this land of the free and the home of the brave. And that, sir, is the truth.