Thomas' rulings show a man of integrity

November 17, 1996|By GREGORY KANE

THE ANTI-Clarence Thomas hordes within black America are at it again, and this time they've gone waaaay over the line.

Take, for example, the cover of the latest Emerge magazine. Mind you, Emerge is still the best black monthly news magazine on the market -- well-written, superbly edited and committed to presenting hard news stories that its competitors wouldn't dream of touching.

But did the editors have to approve a cover with Clarence Thomas dressed as a lawn jockey accompanied with the headline screaming "Uncle Thomas, Lawn Jockey for The Far Right"?

If we are to believe Emerge editor George E. Curry, who co-authored the article in the November issue entitled "The Verdict on Judge Thomas," they had to.

"I apologize," Curry wrote in his editor's note. "Exactly three years ago, shortly after I took over as editor of Emerge, we ran a cover illustration of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, resplendent with an Aunt Jemima-like handkerchief on his head. In retrospect, we were far too benevolent. Even our latest depiction is too compassionate for a person who has done so much to turn back the clock on civil rights, all the way back to the pre-Civil War lawn jockey days."

Not content with the lawn jockey imagery, Emerge editors went even further. On pages 42 and 43 of the magazine is a picture of a grinning Thomas gleefully shining Associate Justice Antonin Scalia's shoes. The article quotes retired U.S. Court of Appeals Chief Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. as saying that Thomas possesses "a level of racial self-hatred that is clinically observable."

Emerge editors, much to their credit, had John N. Doggett III, a Yale Law School classmate of Thomas', do a column defending the justice. Doggett gives an example of Thomas' "clinically observable racial self-hatred." Doggett cited an incident that divided black Yale Law School students in 1971 and continues to divide black conservatives and black liberals to this day.

"Black students at Yale Law School were bitterly divided as to whether Blacks could compete 'head-up' with White students. Clarence quickly joined those of us who believed that Blacks did not need 'separate-but-lower' admission standards at Yale.... We were opposed by a group of Black students who were convinced that bar exams, admissions tests and grading scales were culturally biased. They truly believed that Black students could never overcome racism and compete equally with Whites."

Judging from Doggett's anecdote, who had the "clinically observable racial self-hatred": those blacks like Thomas who believed blacks could compete with whites or those blacks who didn't? It is on that point that Clarence Thomas and I agree. We agree on others as well and differ on some. But I don't believe the differences in opinion make Thomas a race traitor, Uncle Tom or lawn jockey.

What Thomas' views and Supreme Court rulings make him is a man of integrity and courage who is not content to go along with a herd mentality. The man's got spunk. I like that. He's interpreting the law the way Clarence Thomas sees it.

Exactly whose view of law and jurisprudence do we want Thomas espousing on the Supreme Court? Greg Kane's? Not with my views on civil liberties and interracial marriage, we don't. Jesse Jackson's? George Curry's?

How about Thurgood Marshall's? Ah, yes. That's whose views we want Thomas espousing. But it strikes me that Thurgood Marshall voiced his own opinions on the Supreme Court. Because most black Americans agreed with those opinions, Marshall was considered a hero. Thomas, because he has the gall to express some opinions unpopular among blacks, is considered a traitor.

But let's be fair about this. Thomas can't possibly give the views of some 30 million black Americans. He can't even represent the views of a majority of us. That would prove to be an unbearable burden for the man. Let's face it: We can't even decide what we want to call ourselves yet. It changes every 10 to 15 years.

Emerge editors even got Rosa Parks in on the Thomas bashing. But Parks, God love her, refused to call the man a traitor, Uncle Tom or lawn jockey.

"I do not consider him a positive role model for Blacks," Parks said in the Emerge article. "He had all the advantages of affirmative action and went against it."

Ironically, it was Parks who had her home invaded by some crackhead who tried to pummel her into submission. That assailant, a black man, was caught. None of the Thomas bashers has yet called him an Uncle Tom, lawn jockey or race traitor. Black liberals have quite a different term for him.

Victim.

Pub Date: 11/17/96

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