Justice Clarence Thomas Signals A Victory Lap Over Affirmative Action Policy
In a rare occurrence, which signals the importance of the latest Affirmative Action ruling to Justice Clarence Thomas personally, his honor read his concurring opinion aloud from the bench on June 20, The Hill reported.
The opinion can certainly be taken as a microcosm of Thomas’ judiciary tenure. During the unpopular Justice’s opinion, Thomas makes it clear that he thinks so-called ‘race-based quotas’ are actually pieces of racist practices themselves and he also declares that he is indeed aware of this country’s past and history, stating:
“While I am painfully aware of the social and economic ravages which have befallen my race and all who suffer discrimination, I hold out enduring hope that this country will live up to its principles so clearly enunciated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States: that all men are created equal, are equal citizens, and must be treated equally before the law.”
On a season 8 episode of Slate’s Slow Burn podcast, host Joel Anderson details the early life and career of Justice Thomas which included an affirmative action initiative of Holy Cross designed to increase its enrollment of Black students at the overwhelmingly white campus.
Among that 1971 class was a student named Clarence Thomas, who despite joining the Black Student Union on campus often espoused views that ran opposite of the majority opinion. This included a demand that his white roommate be allowed to live with him in their otherwise all-Black community dorm. Thomas would go on to Yale Law School from Holy Cross, wholly convinced that Affirmative Action was a policy that demeaned Black people in practice even if its goals were noble.
Thomas spent much of the next 50 years trying to dismantle affirmative action and though he wanted nothing to do with anything race-related, he nonetheless accepted a position as the head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In his second term leading the commission Thomas pivoted the organization in such a manner that the NAACP spoke out against the way that he ran it, concerned that his move away from affirmative action signaled a dangerous precedent for future behavior.
The NAACP called into question the transformation of the Supreme Court into a radically conservative ruling body during Thomas’ 1991 confirmation hearing and today’s radically conservative Supreme Court has decided that using race as one factor in college admission practices runs counter to their interpretation of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.