December 03, 2004

Relevance

by PG

Someone stopped by HSM today while Googling "believe in your black man," a search that eventually turns up this post about the appropriateness of Clarence Thomas's discussing, during oral arguments in a cross-burning case, the historical experience of African Americans (even though I disagreed with Thomas's position on the Virginia statute in question). Somehow I doubted that Justice Thomas was the black man in whom the searcher was interested... then I noticed that the person was at paulweiss.com, which is a fancypants law firm. So maybe Justice Thomas is the black man in whom this person wishes to believe.

Yeeeeah, keep trying with that one.

Snark aside, at least when it comes to racial issues, Thomas actually does seem to be quite interested in people's real experiences. In his Grutter/ Gratz opinions, he wrote about the problems faced by African American students who are admitted to schools with affirmative actions policies. He said that those who would have been admitted even if they had been white had to deal with their peers' assumption that they were not actually qualified, while those admitted with the aid of such policies struggled to keep up. This is not a cold legal analysis, and I'm happy to have it in the Supreme Court's record, though here again I disagree with Thomas on what the law should be.

At a recent FedSoc affair, some of the other law students in attendance described meeting Thomas at a lawyer's house, and said that he'd questioned them about what their experiences with respect to race and affirmative action. Particularly with an issue like affirmative action, where the ideal of "color blindness" and the demand for equal opportunity are in conflict and the Constitutional imperative unclear, the way in which the policy plays out in real life is important knowledge to have in mind while trying to determine its future.

December 3, 2004 11:37 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Consider what the late Justice Thurgood Marshall might have said at this oral argument. Or better yet, what Marshall would have told his fellow Justices in conference and in private discussions about experiences of the black man. Justice Thomas was of course a beneficiary of Marshall's pre-Justice actions. Alas, too many times some beneficiaries forget what had to be done to get them their benefits.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline at December 4, 2004 07:05 AM

That's dangerously close to the "since he got an advantage from affirmative action, he cannot criticize it" line of argument.

Southern whites (and whites in general) got an advantage from segregation. Do you think it was equally unseemly for white people to be involved in the Civil Rights Movement?

Posted by: The Angry Clam at December 4, 2004 01:29 PM
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