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Monday, June 30, 2003

The Company He Keeps

I can't help but feel just a little bit sorry for Justice Clarence Thomas. Clearly, he feels ashamed that his appointment to the Supreme Court is seen in the same light that many see other forms of affirmative action policies. Indeed, one can assume that certain people see his appointment as being the fulfillment of an African American quota, which can only be deeply embarrassing to an extreme conservative such as he.

However, he needs to ask himself whether the problem is the policy or the company he keeps.

In the liberal circles I inhabit, I can't say that anyone assumes that African Americans or hispanics or women are somehow less qualified for the jobs they do. That stigma certainly doesn't apply in politics or the professions. If I even made note of the fact that say, an airline pilot was black, I would probably assume that he had been trained by the military as are most commercial pilots. I wouldn't assume that he was less qualified than others.

My doctor is an African American woman. It never occurred to me to think that she got into medical school, and managed to graduate cum laude, complete a residency at Johns Hopkins and teach at a major medical center without somebody, somewhere, flunking her out if she started killing patients. But, I guess that's just me.

Liberals, being the standardless relativists that we are, don't judge people on the basis of whether they are a different color or gender. That's one of our things, you know? Our assumption is that if you might need help in getting into college, you surely aren't going to be able to graduate and succeed in the world beyond that if you can't deliver. In fact, I would argue that most liberals believe that women and racial minorities have to be better than others in order to achieve the same things --- they are cut much less slack, overall.

We don't hate Thomas because he's black or because he was a recipient of affirmative action. We hate him because he's an extreme right wing radical who nonetheless claims the mantle of racial victimhood and uses it dishonestly in the service of bigotry. Instead of recognizing that the same old racists are using the epithet "affirmative action admission" as a way of saying that racial minorities are inferior, he blames those who are trying to mitigate that bigotry by developing systems like affirmative action.

If Clarence finds himself feeling ashamed of being the beneficiary of affirmative action then Clarence needs to take up the issue with those who really do see racial minorities as being less qualified because of it. He, of all people, is in a unique position to have a long chat with those in his social circle who mutter "typical affirmative action type" under their breaths and fret to their friends down at the club about the new hispanic lawyer their law firm was "forced" to hire. Because I can guarantee that it isn't the liberals who are saying these things. It's Thomas' best friends and closest colleagues.

I can understand why he might get the impression that everybody thinks that racial minorities are "given" sinecures and special treatment because that's the way itit's perceived in the insular right wing world in which he lives. He needs to take it up with Nino, Rush, Bill and Newt at the next bar-b-que.

They're the ones with the problem, Clarence, not us.

Update: He probably should start by taking a little walk down the hall to Big Bill's office. Via Atrios, we see how old Bill felt about that wonderful highlight of American jurisprudence "Plessy vs. Ferguson." Clarence needs to give his good friend a piece of his mind, if he's truly concerned about how African Americans are "perceived" in our society.

Atrios' link is bloggered. Scroll down to Rhenquist 1952 from Sunday.