Color Blind

This week we mark the twentieth anniversary of the appointment of Justice Clarence Thomas as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.  Judge Thomas was thoroughly “borked”, a verb now in common usage after the savage hearings that brutalized the eminently qualified Robert Bork and refused him his appointment to the Supreme Court.  Justice Thomas survived the liberal vitriol and personal attacks of tumultuous Senate confirmation hearings to become one of the best respected ‘originalist’ voices for strict constitutional interpretation of American law.   He succeeded Thurgood Marshall and as an African American conservative continues to be a lightning rod for the left.

After serving as head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President Ronald Reagan, he was appointed first as a Federal judge on the Washington, DC Circuit Court of Appeals, then to the Supreme Court by President George H. W. Bush. For twenty years he has served with distinction and hopefully will continue to do so for another twenty.

In his autobiographical, “My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir”, Justice Thomas writes eloquently about his young life when he learned about personal responsibility and persistent work from his grandfather, as well as the value of education from the nuns at parochial schools in Savannah, GA.  His earliest language was Gullah, an African dialect spoken by his parents, descendents of slaves.  He went on to Holy Cross College and Yale Law School.  His spoken English now is evocative of the powerful cadences of James Earl Jones after disciplining himself for many hours in college language labs when a Jesuit professor and mentor warned his brilliant student that the Southern patois of his youth would limit his opportunities.  Justice Thomas at his core fervently believes in equal opportunity for all citizens and in the hard work necessary to take advantage of them.

As a strict interpreter of the original intent of the writers of the Constitution, he reserves special disdain for those laws which use race as a determinant of results such as affirmative action.  He has called the culture of affirmative action and racial biases favoring minorities by lowering standards for them as the modern version of the old slave holding plantation.  In Adarand v. Pena (1995) striking down racial quotas in government contracting, he wrote, affirmative action is “racial paternalism” whose “unintended consequences can be as poisonous and pernicious as any other form of discrimination.”  The unexpressed presumption in this condescending racism is that minorities cannot achieve equal results without props and winks.  For a person of Justice Thomas’ achievements, this is particularly galling.

Shelby Steele, an African American author, scholar and documentary film maker, is a Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute and another conservative opponent of all things racist, with racism being defined as treating people differently because of their race.  Professor Steele is widely published, and his book “White Guilt” is the best exposition of the case against affirmative action I’ve read.  In peril of my sounding too “sixties”, “White Guilt” is full of those consciousness raising ideas that forever change one’s preconceptions.  His writing is clear and alive, not pedantic or pompous as some academic works can be; I commend “Grandfather’s Son” and “White Guilt” most highly to anyone looking for well thought out counterpoint to politically correct jargon about race.

To presume a very brief synopsis of “White Guilt”: after the Civil Rights Act in 1964, by  admitting of the terrible wrongs throughout prior American history done by  whites towards blacks, whites diminished greatly their moral authority  necessary to continue to lead and govern.  To address this loss and threat to power, rather than encouraging blacks  to earn the breakthroughs codified by law in their new found equal rights and opportunities,  whites attempted to preempt the moral high ground by a series of actions  starting with President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society legislation.  The “Great Society” promoted guaranteed equal  results, including affirmative action and a debilitating welfare program that  systematically undermined black family life.  Black leaders like Julian Bond, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton chose to  leverage white guilt by espousing a self serving victimization attitude for  blacks, by identifying themselves through their race rather than their accomplishments  and by viewing the self sacrifice of personal responsibility necessary for  permanent gains as a further oppression rather than freeing.  In terms of lasting impact on the black  community, the net results have been decline with negligible impact on black  poverty and truly awful impact on black families.

The  statistics are condemning.  In 1960, 22%  of black children lived in single parent family homes; today 66% do, and 80% of black  children will spend a significant portion of their youth not in contact at all  with their fathers.  The sad facts are  these:  black male irresponsibility  enabled by the Great Society programs after fifty years has resulted in 53% of  black males dropping out of high school.  In NYC, there is a 72% drop out rate.  If a person takes three specific actions, only 8% of them will end up  below the poverty line.  They must  graduate from high school, not have a baby before they are married, and not  have a baby before they are 20 years old.  If they don’t do all three, 79% will be in poverty.

We need to  listen to Shelby Steele and Clarence Thomas, not Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton,  if we ever hope to see the equality and opportunity enshrined in our Declaration  of Independence enacted for all of us, irrespective of race.

Quote from “White Guilt”:  “No worse fate could befall a group emerging from oppression than to find itself gripped by a militancy that sees justice in making others responsible for its advancement.”


Filed under Culture views

6 responses to “Color Blind

  1. Rita

    In 1965 I was a student nurse in the middle of my “outpatient” affiliation at what was then called Boston City Hospital. It served the inner city poor. I remember vividly an “older” charge nurse remarking that AFDC…Aid to families with dependent children…would be the ruination of the black family as it would enable, if not encourage, the fathers of these families to leave the care of their offspring to the government. I was a bit idealistic at the time and thought she was carrying things a bit far, however, it did stick in my mind and sure enough, it has done just that.

    In 1999, when I was director of a Crisis Pregnancy Center in Middletown, RI I had a young black girl come in for a pregnancy test. Her test was negative and I remember having a discussion about how she could now focus on her studies and graduating from High School. I tried to get her to tell me what she might like to study when she went to college, but she just returned my little talk with a blank stare. I found out that her grandmother was outside in a car waiting for her, so I walked out to the car to meet her. She was a lovely lady and we chatted for awhile. She was complaining about the kids (black) today and their lack of motivation. When I told her that her granddaughter’s pregnancy test was negative and that she didn’t seem too happy, she remarked, “Oh! That’s because she WANTS it to be positive so she can get out of the house and into her own, (government subsidized) apartment. She just couldn’t imagine proceeding through life in any other way.

    The Civil Rights movement of the sixties was one of the proudest moments in American history. Black leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King led their people out of the final vestiges of slavery by uncovering to the entire nation via the medium of television the continued abuse of African Americans in the south. Many white leaders and students participated in Kings nonviolent movement.

    African Americans had families then, complete with mothers and fathers. That was the moment when the black community was at a crossroads. They could be allowed to take advantage of the American dream and slowly work their way up the ladder of success that is part of what makes America great and what every other ethnic/racial group has taken advantage of over our entire history, or they could be placed on a larger plantation; a much more subtle plantation that was created by the smiley face of government dependence.

    What have we done and more importantly how can it be fixed? I believe that it has to come from within the black community, just as the civil rights movement came from within the black community. And it has to come from leadership of black men who understand that more money and help from the government isn’t the answer.


  2. R C

    Well done again Jack, As always. I see the problem not only in the black population,but in all the races to some extent. The dependancy and entitlement attitude ,which seems to be so prevalent in our present society,will be our demise unless something is done to correct it. Many of us feel that knowing Gods plan and desire for our lives,and submitting to it is one great answer.I’m not so sure we will ever find a secular or “societal” answer. I do think a succesfull and truly intelligent black man running for president however , who is also against affirmative action, is a step in the right direction. GO FOR IT HERMAN!!


  3. Meg

    Now in my fourth year of teaching in a low-income area in Harlem, NY, I see this problem all too often. It always shocks people outside of NY when I tell them that most of my students come from single-parent families (mothers, not fathers). This Great Society legislation did more harm than good. The black community in New York has tragic statistics. I work with fatherless children and uneducated parents who feel helpless when it comes to assisting their youngsters with school all the time. Besides it being emotionally draining to deal with on a day to day basis, the people I see it anger the most are my educated, hard-working African American colleagues.

    I remember one day last year, a young man who graduated from our middle school ended up in the paper after having been involved in gang violence. His younger brother, who was in the 8th grade, had started showing signs of gang involvement. My principal (an African American Columbia graduate) sighed, shook her head and said, “He’s going to end up being another black boy on the street soon.” I was shocked to hear such blatant pessimism – but realized that she was completely justified in making such a remark. The numbers prove. There needs to be something done within the black communities to change the mindset of these people for the better – not another handout or more money from the government to try to “fix” their problems.

    My co-teacher, a Jamaican immigrant, often makes comments about the lack of work ethic, responsibility and motivation we see on a daily basis with our students and their parents. She says that these issues simply don’t exist in Jamaica or other countries with black populations. It’s only here, in America, where our black population have been lead to believe that they aren’t capable of being successful and that their hard work isn’t necessary because they will get handed opportunities that non-blacks hope for simply because of the color of their skin. It is a travesty that should never have happened and if Dr. King were alive today, he would be disgusted with what has happened to so many African-Americans.


  4. Thanks for sharing your experiences and insights with us. Working in crisis pregnancy centers and inner city schools brings unique and valuable perspectives to the discussion. Here’s a bit more.

    The entitled victim is not a function of race, but of multi generational expectation set in place by white guilt. Professor Steele wrote that the shibboleth, the mantra “diversity” is the white liberal elite’s virtue, put into effect primarily as a disassociation from the racism of their forebears. Not only does it allow them to see themselves as morally superior to their benighted white fellows who don’t support affirmative action and lower standards for minorities for college admission and jobs, diversity is a code word for the generosity of superiors towards their inferiors.

    Steele tells the story of Justice Thomas’ scathing dissent from Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s deeply divided majority opinion that upheld affirmative action acceptances at the University of Michigan a few years ago. Maureen Dowd, the celebrated NY Times columnist, vilely excoriated Thomas in her editorial about his dissent. Nothing upsets a liberal more than questioning their unassailable goodness. She is a darling of the liberal circuit and gets invited to all the best cocktail, self-congratulatory parties where they entertain each other with clever sophisticated cynicism. How dare he question the god of Diversity? In it she said among other things that Justice Thomas should show a little “gratitude” – there’s a word for you; a black Justice of the Supreme Court was insufficiently grateful for the magnanimous largesse that fell off the white man’s table. And we’re so good to our darkies!

    Occasionally, the soul of the liberal peeks out from behind the curtain, especially when they are incensed because their self anointed virtue is questioned. Sometimes I’m truly embarrassed to be a middle aged, baby boomer, white guy.


  5. Bar

    In perspective of “color blind”, it was somewhat lacking clarity I think but more of a limiting factor than a factual.
    Your focus was white or black. Actually on must put in proper perspective the reality of the spectrum as we know it. Visible light is very small part of the energy spectrum, perhaps just 10% of the whole electromagnetic wavelengths of energy.
    In this small sector of our visual perception (Visible light -VL), White is presence of all visible colors and black is devoid of all color. The reality of physics is white light is the presence of all colors & amp; black is the absorber of all light or an absence of all reflected light. Depending which way you want to look at it can create various perceptions of interpretations: all limited by mental absorption capability.
    Why things are judged by color is a common scenario based on simplicity. The simplicity is defined by the brightness and darkness of the simple.
    This is balanced by the weight of the simple minded numbers. Bear in mind in all the shades and spectrum of colors can be misjudged and misguided by deflection, reflection and focal lens of nature, all twisted, turned by the bidirectional lens which are all are limited by absorption or perceptions. This would be a better definition of color blind. In fact it is all just plain simple and used as an excuse because of the limitations of perception.
    The reality of the shame is the acceptance of the personal energy doctrine of the lethargic. Most tend to bow than to arise. It is in reality this all should be labeled as “perceptional blind” not color blinded. I see this as an issue in all the shades, colors and in nature.


  6. Gary B

    It’s truly sad that once again good intentions produce poor results. Unfortunately, most politicians, educators and the press will not address the issue out of their devotion to political correctness. Clarence Thomas should be a role model for anyone looking to iprove thier lot in life, instead his is constantly villified by the left as a sell out.

    Until the black family makes a comeback, and role models such as Justice Thomas are looked up to, not much can change. I wonder if a politician can be both politically incorrect and electable?


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