Black SCOTUS judge Clarence Thomas on Leftist racism
Thomas's most deeply felt opinions are about race, and he pulls no punches. For Thomas, the menacing racists who donned white sheets in the segregated South of his childhood are as bad or worse as the northern liberal zealots in suits and ties. "These people who claim to be progressive . have been far more vicious to me than any southerner," Thomas says, "and it is purely ideological."
Thomas talks about the virulent racism he encountered growing up in the segregated South, when blacks were considered second-class citizens and kept separate from whites by law, and he equates those attitudes with the stereotypes he believes people hold today. "People get bent out of shape about the fact that when I was a kid, you could not drink out of certain water fountains. Well, the water was the same. My grandfather always said that, 'The water's exactly the same.' But those same people are extremely comfortable saying I can't drink from this fountain of knowledge," Thomas says. "They certainly don't see themselves as being like the bigots in the South. Well, I've lived both experiences. And I really don't see that they're any different from them."
He says his critics - the people who question whether he is smart or qualified to be on the Court or who suggest he merely does what a white Supreme Court colleague dictates - are as also as bigoted as the whites of his childhood in the deep South. "People feel free to say about me what they think about lots of blacks," Thomas said in an interview in his chambers at the Supreme Court. "Because of the heterodox views I've taken, they have license to say it about me with impunity."
Sixteen years after the bitter confirmation hearings that would forever put the name "Anita Hill" in any story written about him, Thomas remains one of the most compelling and divisive figures in public life. That is both ironic and inevitable for a man who, on the surface, appears to be a study in conflicts. He is black, but a conservative. He is contrarian and independent, but wants deeply to connect with people. He holds a job he never wanted, but has strong ideas about how to do it. He fiercely protects his privacy, but has written a book that is intensely personal and, at times, anguished.
Thomas's life and experiences - growing up in the Jim Crow South, integrating all-white public schools as the only black student, confronting more latent racism after he fled to what he hoped would be "utopia" in the North - clearly have influenced how he views the law and social policies like affirmative action. His brutal 1991 confirmation battle only reinforced those deeply held views. He says he believes every discussion of race in America is fundamentally dishonest. "It's even more dishonest than the '60s," he says.
He is adamantly opposed to affirmative action, but for entirely different reasons than white conservatives who drive the debate by arguing it's unfair to white people. Thomas says affirmative action instead has hurt blacks. It not only sends them into environments in which they are doomed to struggle instead of soar, but it also perpetuates negative stereotypes that whites hold today that all blacks are inferior to them and don't belong - just as whites in the South assumed 50 years ago.
"These ideologies that claim to be so warm toward minorities actually turn out to be quite pernicious," Thomas says. Under affirmative action, Thomas says, whites will forever believe blacks enroll in top schools or hold good jobs only because the institutions lowered their standards to accept them - regardless of whatever qualifications an individual may actually have. The assumption is that blacks, Thomas says, are not and cannot be as good as whites. "Once you start making these decisions and judgments about people's capabilities based on race, it is forever locked in," Thomas says. "And you can see it play out throughout my confirmation and throughout the subsequent years that I've been on the Court."
And he says he believes the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearings into Anita Hill's allegation of sexual harassment - when 14 white Senators asked excruciatingly private questions about pornography and penis sizes - would not have occurred had they both been white. "I doubt it," he says forcefully. "Can you think of any other examples?" In discussing the hearings into Hill's allegations, Thomas's angriest words are for Democratic senators, the liberal interest groups and the media. He turns a blowtorch on each, blasting them in turn for their respective roles in what he calls "the most inhumane thing" that ever has ever happened to him.
At the time, he saw those hearings in a racial context. Time has only made him more assured. "I'd grown up fearing the lynch mobs of the Ku Klux Klan; as an adult I was starting to wonder if I'd been afraid of the wrong white people all along - where I was being pursued not by bigots in white robes, but by left-wing zealots draped in flowing sanctimony," he wrote in his book.
In the interview at his home, with his wife Virginia at his side during part of it, Thomas talks in detail about the hearings and how he believes they perpetuated the vilest stereotypes about black men - stereotypes about sexual aggression that had long condemned them to death in the South and had been recounted by African-American novelists in harrowing detail. It all, he says was an effort to destroy his nomination and keep him off the Court.
He says he had to be "dehumanized" and "destroyed," because he held views considered heretical for a black man - because, as he puts it, he was in a different ideological neighborhood and refused to buy into the views that whites had "disseminated as the prevailing view for blacks." "I saw it for what it was, and I still see it for exactly what it was," Thomas says. "I think it was an effort to keep me in my place."
No justice in modern American history has been subjected to such vitriolic personal attacks as Clarence Thomas. Many liberal blacks view him with anger or disgust and consider him a traitor to his race, suggesting he is doing the bidding of white conservatives seeking to undo a generation of progress on civil rights. He been portrayed as a lawn jockey, a 'house slave," and repeatedly called an "Uncle Tom," including by prominent black officials.
Many white liberals, on the other hand, view him with disdain, questioning his intellect and qualifications - questions, incidentally, that aren't typically raised about Thomas by blacks. Even when presented with hard documentary evidence - memos and notes taken by Justice Harry Blackmun - that Thomas has been independent of Justice Antonin Scalia from the beginning and has influenced the Court in a number of areas, many white liberals refuse to acknowledge it.
Thomas views it all through a racial lens. He says he is not wounded by the criticisms of his fellow blacks that he is uncaring about other members of his race, which he dismisses as akin to a racial slur hurled from"from a bus driving by or a pickup truck on a rural road." But at the same time he says he is hurt - saying he wishes someone would just hear him and what he is trying to say.
"Why else would you take on virtually everybody, and take on the prevailing notions about race? Why would you take the criticism if you didn't care? I mean it's easy to go along with the crowd and sort of play that game - that doesn't require any courage or backbone," Thomas says. "It took a lot more to say, 'I think something is wrong.'"
Instead of being a hypocrite for opposing affirmative action after supposedly benefiting from it, a frequent charge, Thomas says affirmative action actually harmed him and that he believes he should be able to criticize it. "Once we're set on something that's the accepted wisdom, other people like me, who have questions, suddenly become heretics - you can't talk about it, you can't say, 'Look, I have good intentions, too. I just don't agree with you,'" Thomas says. "Why wouldn't it be just as easy to say, 'Well, here's somebody who went through it, and he has some problems with it based on his experience, and his intentions are as good as the people who are the authors of the initial policy?' But that doesn't happen."
But Thomas is much more critical of the white liberals who have dismissed him as an intellectual lightweight. "It's similar to what you had in the South, you know: 'you're stupid because you're black,' that 'you smell bad because you're black.' I mean, it's all the same thing," Thomas says. "And I don't understand why people . buy into it and don't see the long-term damage."
He believes whites again have created a system where blacks have to stay in a certain place - this time ideologically, not geographically. Slavery evolved into segregation; segregation evolved into an entrenched system of racial preferences, paternalism and condescension - a modern-day system, Thomas says, that also keeps blacks inferior and ideologically segregated. "Whites can think anything they want, and we can have opinions about frivolous things, like I could be a (Washington) Nationals fan, as opposed to being an (Baltimore) Orioles fan, Oh, that's ok. But if it's important, if you're black, you all have to think the same thing," Thomas says. "Can you imagine someone saying that about whites, that, 'well, you're white, you're all supposed to think the same thing.' That would be considered ludicrous."
And the discussion of affirmative action, he says, is particularly damaging. It's become an issue that pits blacks against whites, liberals against conservatives - to the point that it's almost impossible to honestly debate its impact, Thomas said. Thomas spoke at length about how his own experiences as a black conservative and a black justice prove his point. Because he was admitted to Yale Law School under affiramative action after graduating in the top two percent of his class at Holy Cross. benefited from affirmative action at Yale Law School, he said people have questioned his qualifications and discounted his achievements, he says. Even as a Justice, he says, people continue to believe he merely has "followed" Justice Scalia because a black man couldn't possibly hold those views or be smart enough to come up with them on his own.
"Give me a break. I mean this is part of the - you know, the black guy is supposed to follow somebody white. We know that," Thomas says. "Come on, we know the story behind that. I mean there's no need to sort of tip-toe around that . The story line was that, well I couldn't be doing this myself, he must be doing it for me because I'm black. That's obvious. "Again, I go back to my point. Who were the real bigots? It's obvious," Thomas says.
WHY IS INTERVENTION GOOD FOR DARFUR BUT BAD FOR IRAQ?
Spotted on the London Underground: an Amnesty sticker demanding "Stop raping Darfur". Who was that aimed at: commuting Sudanese militiamen? Or was it just there to turn our work journey into another guilt trip?
Some of those on Sunday's London march for action on Darfur wore blindfolds, supposedly to symbolise the West's refusal to face the truth. To me it rather symbolised the blind ignorance of the pro-intervention lobby. Why are those who protest against the disastrous intervention in Iraq demanding more of the same for Sudan? Do they really think it will be all right if Brown and Sarkozy lead the charge instead of Bush and Blair? Duhh-fur!
The crusaders won't learn the lesson that such interventions do not work. They perpetuate conflicts, turn civil wars into international theatres where local actors compete to win outside support, and impose hopeless states. Never mind Iraq, look at "success stories" such as Kosovo or East Timor.
The pro-interventionists drown out these inconvenient truths with pop videos and atrocity stories. As Professor Mahmood Mamdani, of Columbia University, points out, their presentation of the Darfur conflict looks more like a voyeuristic "pornography of violence", spiced up with promiscuous claims of deaths - now 120,000, now a quarter of million, now 400,000.
But then, the liberal crusaders for Darfur are really driven more by events over here, seeking a foreign cause to provide a sense of outraged moral righteousness. They are drawn to Africa as a stage on which to strike dramatic poses and draw the clear line between Good and Evil that seems elusive at home. So the interventionist script reduces the historical and political complexities of the Darfur conflict to a fairytale.
As George Clooney informs us: "It's not a political issue. There is only right and wrong." Or as a bloke from the British pop group Travis, who went to Darfur for Save the Children, writes: "Africa is a very complex place, but the Darfur crisis is quite simple." Thanks for the analysis - send in the troops!
I have been among those few on the Left who opposed such self-serving moral crusades, from Bosnia to Darfur, because turning these crises into moral melodramas can only make matters worse for those on the receiving end of compassionate militarism. It is not so easy to get a bandwagon rolling after Iraq. Mr Brown will support the UNAfrican Union forces, but won't be Gordon of Khartoum. Yet the crusaders maintain the imperial illusion that is "our" job to save Africa from itself. "Don't look away now" is their campaign slogan. For once, they have a point. Let's not look away, but face up to the hard truth about interventions and conclude, as they say: never again.
Absurd pandering to Muslim attention-seekers in Britain
MUSLIM supermarket checkout staff who refuse to sell alcohol are being allowed to opt out of handling customers' bottles and cans of drink. Islamic workers at Sainsbury's who object to alcohol on religious grounds are told to raise their hands when encountering any drink at their till so that a colleague can temporarily take their place or scan items for them. [What a useless employee!] Other staff have refused to work stacking shelves with wine, beer and spirits and have been found alternative roles in the company.
Sainsbury's said this weekend it was keen to accommodate the religious beliefs of all staff but some Islamic scholars condemned the practice, saying Muslims who refused to sell alcohol were reneging on their agreements with the store. Islam states that Muslims should not consume alcohol, but opinion is divided on whether it is permissible to be involved in the sale of it. Mustapha, a Muslim checkout worker at the company's store in Swiss Cottage, northwest London, interrupts his work to ensure that he does not have to sell or handle alcohol. Each time a bottle or can of alcohol comes along the conveyor belt in front of him, Mustapha either swaps places discreetly with a neighbouring attendant or raises his hand so that another member of staff can come over and pass the offending items in front of the scanner before he resumes work.
Some of the staff delegated to handle the drink for Mustapha are themselves obviously Muslim, including women in hijab head coverings. However, a staff member at the store told a reporter that two other employees had asked to be given alternative duties after objecting to stacking drinks shelves. Mustapha told one customer: "I can't sell the alcohol because of my religion. It is Ramadan at the moment."
His customers did not appear to have any objection to his polite refusal to work with alcohol. One said: "I have no issues with it at all, it really doesn't bother me."
However, some senior Muslims were less approving. Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, director of the Muslim Institute and leader of the Muslim parliament, said: "This is some kind of overenthusiasm. One expects professional behaviour from people working in a professional capacity and this shows a lack of maturity. "Sainsbury's is being very good, they are trying to accommodate the wishes of their employees and we commend that. The fault lies with the employee who is exploiting and misusing their goodwill. It makes no difference if it is only happening over Ramadan."
Ibrahim Mogra, chairman of the inter-faith committee of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), said: "Muslim employees should look at the allowances within Muslim law to enable them to be better operating employees and not be seen as rather difficult to cater for."
A spokeswoman for Sainsbury's, confirming Mustapha's stance, said: "At the application stage we ask the relevant questions regarding any issues about handling different products and where we can we will try and accommodate any requirements people have, but it depends on the needs of the particular store."
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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