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Clarence Thomas – High Tech Lynching

It should not, therefore, come as an insuperable shock that the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court were a racist phenomenon. The “nice” kind; no Simon Legrees or fiery crosses here. But racist nonetheless. Setting aside old segregationist Strom Thurmond, who conscientiously counterfeited a dead man and may, for all I know, actually have been dead, the other senators participated, singly and collectively — and unwittingly — in a process that ceaselessly generated negative stereotypes about Thomas.

So unaware were these men of their own racist stereotyping that when, at the 11th hour, they were forced consciously to deal with a negative stereotype, they didn’t recognize it and had no principles with which to assess it or with which to differentiate between the black individuals involved. The press commentators generally revealed the same incapacities. All eventually ended up mired in an unspeakable crudity that would never have occurred had the protagonists been white.

Native Son: Why A Black Supreme Court Justice Has No Rights A White Man Need Respect

After his speech at the American Enterprise Institute’s banquet in February, I introduced myself to Clarence Thomas. His face lit up when he heard my affiliation with Reason, asking whether I was the woman who had written the article about him. No, I said, Edith Efron wrote it. I was the editor who published it (and, I didn’t add, typed it). He then told me what he had told several mutual friends since 1992: that Edith had been the only person to understand what was going through his mind during the hearings that made him a household name.

Edith knew exactly what Thomas was thinking not because she was a well-sourced reporter—she had never met Thomas and didn’t talk to any insiders about the hearings—but because she paid attention to history and to details. Everything she wrote had a Big Idea, an integrated concept that made sense of a welter of facts. Structure, she believed, was everything, and she wasn’t happy until she had found the perfect synthesis. She was uncannily perceptive.

In this case, she knew that Thomas’ favorite book was Richard Wright’s Native Son, she reread the book for the first time in 50 years, and the rest followed. “One finds many things relevant to Thomas and to his roots and his lifelong concerns in this book,” she wrote. “But in this particular context, one finds one crucial thing—his limits. The one thing Thomas would not, could not, permit, whatever else might be at stake, the one stereotype that it would be downright dangerous to paste on him, leaps out from those pages.”

From that insight, she created a sympathetic and searing portrait that turned Thomas the symbol back into Thomas the man. Her article was so powerful that it overcame its political incorrectness to be named a finalist for a National Magazine Award, the magazine world’s highest honor.

The Woman Who Saw Though Walls

Clarence Thomas, Stereotype Buster

And it hasn’t stopped many in America from continuing to use racist stereotypes to denigrate Clarence Thomas.

My Grandfather’s Son (Google books)

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Justice Clarence Thomas

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