Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Justice Thomas Interview

"Sixty Minutes" interviewed Justice Clarence Thomas. I didn’t see it, but I am told that it was pretty good. I bring only a few of his answers ro your attention:

How much of his life is determined by his race?

"Oh, goodness. I don’t know. I’m black. How much of your life is determined by being male? I have no idea. I’m black. That’s a fact of life. I’m 5’8 1/2" tall. I don’t know how much of my life is determined by being 5’8 1/2" tall. It’s just a part of who I am," Thomas tells Kroft.

"But you think of yourself as a black man," Kroft says.

"I’m a man. I’m a man, first and foremost. I’m a citizen of this country. And I happen to be black. I am a human being," Thomas replies.

One more:

You’ve been successful. You moved on. You don’t care about people and your race," Kroft says.

"Oh, that’s silliness," the justice replies.

"You do care," Kroft remarks.

"Oh, obviously I do," Thomas says. "Come on, you know? But it’s none of their business. How much does Justice Scalia care about Italians? Did you ask him that? Did anyone ever ask him? Give me a break. Do I help people? Absolutely. Do I help, love helping black people? Absolutely. And I do. But do I like helping all people? Yes. In particular I like helping people who are disadvantaged, people who don’t come from the best circumstances. Do white people live in homeless shelters? Do Hispanics live in homeless shelters? Is disadvantaged exclusive province of blacks? No."

His autobiography is published today. I already bought a few copies of
My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir.

Discussions - 6 Comments

You can watch the whole thing on the CBS page. It is extraordinary.

By extraordinary, I mean there is steel in this man's soul.

Thanks for pointing that out, Steve. Technology-challenged people (like me) might not have noticed that, otherwise! I did watch it last night but I'm going to watch the whole thing (this time, uninterrupted) again.

It was all that you said and the thing that was most wonderful about it was not just the obvious steel in this man's soul, but his moderation. What I mean is that he seems to make a judgment about a particular episode or person or circumstance in his life (yes, I'm thinking about Anita Hill) and he acts on what he judges to be right and not just on what might be justified or understood in public or what he can get away with that is consistent with his passions. A lesser man would not have spared her the condemnation she may deserve (and public opinion might now tolerate) . . . but he rightly restrained himself seeing--not only that she deserved some charity due to her own lack of judgment--but that the real culprit in what happened to him was not Ms. Hill, but a coarsening manipulation of partisan politics that requires a much more thoughtful and directed attack.

After watching that interview, I am more convinced than ever that the words he used to condemn the Senate Judiciary Committee ("high tech lynching") were--though he must have anticipated, widely misunderstood by many at the time--precisely the thing to say for the record. They played back very well after all these years and, I think, won new converts again last night. There is a kind of noble finality to them and the justice of them is felt in the deepest part of your soul. When Kroft cheerfully reported that Thomas had "won" that battle, Thomas's reply was brilliant: "Won, what?" This wasn't a football match, he said. No one "won." It was a disgusting display and we're still suffering from it. But no one will ever be able to look back upon that episode and ignore Thomas's characterization of it. And in that shocking description there is much to consider. There is enough, in that brief, clear, and jolting statement, to fuel a semester or more of commentary on American politics and the American understanding of justice--and all to good effect. He may remember that moment as one of the worst in his life, but I think it was his finest hour. I think it may take a generation or more, but I firmly believe that public opinion will gradually come around to more or less agree with that view of him and see Clarence Thomas as one of our greatest Americans. If it does not, it will only compound the injustice he suffered.

Justice Thomas is a man, a human being in the fullest sense of the word and a keen understanding of the same, not definable by artificial man-made constructs. There is some dignity in that man right there.

Lengthy article and several more taped interviews here by Jan Crawford Greenburg. More and better than the 60 Minutes piece. (You'll need to copy and paste. Hotlinking didn't work.)

After watching the "60 Minutes" interview, I nominate Justice Thomas' grandfather as "Man of the Year".

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