Friday, June 28, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #114 - Part 5

Clown Award: Clarence Thomas

And since we're still talking about the Supreme Court, I might as well make it a clean sweep. This is our other regular feature, the Clown Award, given for acts of meritorious stupidity. This week, the recipient of the big red nose goes to that ever faithful source of "What?" - Justice Clarence Thomas.

The case here involves a somewhat technical legal point about the proper interpretation of a previous Court decision regarding affirmative action in college admissions. By a 7-1 vote in a decision announced on Monday, June 24, the Supreme Court told an appeals court that it misinterpreted the justices' precedent when reviewing the policies of the University of Texas at Austin. The majority reiterated that affirmative action is constitutional means to further states' compelling interest in fostering a diverse student body, but said the Appeals Court had not looked closely enough at the school's race-conscious admissions program.

The decision is a sad one because it means such programs must be subjected to "strict scrutiny," meaning, in essence, that to defend such a program the school must be able to show that it is absolutely necessary to achieve diversity on campus, that there is no "race neutral" means of achieving the goal. Which is, as I think is obvious, a very high standard to meet. It's another cut in the death by 1,000 cuts to which affirmative action is being subjected.

Okay, but what about Thomas?

Well, y'see, Clarence is against affirmative action altogether. He wrote his own concurring opinion saying what he has said before: He would not only do away with the school's admissions program, he would do away with all affirmative actions programs of all sorts,everywhere. This despite the fact that Thomas is himself an affirmative action baby. In fact, he did it consciously: He acknowledged in his autobiography that when he applied to Yale Law School, he asked that his race be taken into account.

But that's not why he gets the big red nose, not quite. He also said that when he graduated from Yale, he couldn't find a job. He went on job interviews with "one high-priced lawyer" after another and got treated dismissively; they even, he wrote, "unsubtly suggested that they doubted I was as smart as my grades indicated."

And why, according to Clarence Thomas, did this happen? Because Yale had an affirmative action program. That's why these "high-priced lawyers" wouldn't believe the evidence of his grades. Because Yale had an affirmative action program.

Now frankly, I can think of a much more obvious reason why these "high-priced lawyers" at a time less than 10 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act might have thought this black guy was not smart enough for their exalted company - but not Clarence Thomas. Oh, no, not him.

Clarence Thomas, a man so stuck in his ideology that in the case at hand he compared the University of Texas's admissions program to "slaveholders and segregationists," a man so stuck in his ideology that he insisted that getting into college via an affirmative action program is worse - worse for that student - than not getting into college at all, is a man so stuck in his ideology that he was incapable of recognizing racism when it walked up and smacked him in the face. Clarence Thomas is a clown.


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