Grandpa Kewl

Book Review – My Grandfather’s Son, Clarence Thomas



There is no better introduction to this book than the words on the dustcover:

“My first trip to Washington had been to protest the Vietnam War. But now I was part of the decision-making apparatus of the Federal Government – the tiniest possible part, to be sure. But a part all the same. I was no longer on the outside looking in. You can’t live in Washington for very long without becoming cynical about politicians and their motives. But I’ve never doubted the greatness of a country in which a person like me could travel all the way from Pinpoint to Capitol Hill.”

I bolded part of that…it is as true now, perhaps even more so, than it was when he penned those words.

Just for the record: I remember the hearings associate with his appointment to the Supreme Court, perhaps the ugliest we have ever seen, and remain convinced of his integrity.

I took a lot from this book, more than from many others so this will be lengthy. Besides, I have grown a large respect for this fellow.

p. x…”Only the man who makes the voyage can speak truly about it”, a quote from William F. Buckley

p. 36…speaking of a statue of St Jude, the patron of hopeless causes which he won as a prize in High School. He encountered a lot of blunt racism in the school and the statue suffered as a consequence. He carried that statue with him everywhere he went, including his office at the Supreme Court.

p.48…”The fog of confusion lifted. I knew what was wrong, who was to blame for it, and what to do about it. I was an angry black man.

p.56…”On the other hand, I didn’t think it was a good idea to make poor blacks, or anyone else, more dependent on government. That would amount to a new kind of enslavement, one which ultimately relied on the generosity–and the ever-changing self-interests or politicians and activists.” Events have shown that to be true.

p.61…”The more I read, the less inclined I was to conform to the cultural standards that blacks imposed upon themselves and on one another. Merely because I was black, it seemed, I was supposed to listen to Hugh Masekela instead of Carole King, just as I was expected to be a radical, not a conservative. I no longer cared to play that game.”

p.73…”I thought of what Daddy had said when I asked him why he’d never gone on public assistance. “Because it takes away your manhood,” he said. “You do that and they can ask you questions about your life that are none of their business. They can come into your house when they want to, and they can tell you who else can come and go in your house.” Daddy and John, I saw, were making the same point: real freedom meant independence from government intrusion, which in turn meant that you had to take responsibility for your own decisions. When the government assumes that responsibility, it takes away your freedom – and wasn’t freedom the very thing for which blacks in America were fighting?”

p.75…”I was bitter toward the white bigots whom I held responsible for the unjust treatment of blacks, but even more bitter toward those ostensibly unprejudiced whites who pretended to side with black people while using them to further their own political and social ends, turning against them when it suited their purposes. At least southerners were up front about their bigotry: you knew exactly where they were coming from, just like the Georgia rattlesnake that always lets you know when they are ready to strike. Not so the paternalistic big-city whites who offered you a helping hand so long as you were careful to agree with them, but slapped you down if you stared acting  as if you didn’t know your place.”

p.78…”It was in Boston, not Georgia, that a white man had called me nigger for the first time. I’d already found New England to be far less honest about race than the South, and I bristled at the self-righteous sanctimony with which so many of the northerners at Yale glibly discussed the South’s racial problems.”

More about this later on from a personal side

p.85…”For all my cynicism, I still found it impossible to hate my own country and I found it deeply disturbing when Jane Fonda had criticized America during a visit to North Vietnam the preceding year.”  She did a lot worse than just criticizing America….

p.105…Around this page he starts a discussion of the works of Thomas Sowell, one of the best of the best in the field of economics and one of my own favorite writers whose columns I read regularly.

p.108…”I’d already noticed that it was liberals, not conservatives who were more likely to condescend to blacks, but I assumed, like the good radical that I once was, that liberals and conservatives were just two different breeds of snake.”

From here until later, there is a detailed story of the Judge’s progression thru a variety of positions and his introduction into the Federal Court system, 4 confirmations in 10 years and culminating in his nomination by President Bush to be a member of the Supreme Court.

p.235…”What gave these rich white men the right to question my commitment to racial justice?”

p.236…A hypocritical question asked by then Senator Biden…..he’s not changed much over the years…slimy politician.

p.238…”Most of my opponents on the Judicial Committee cared only about one thing: how would I rule on abortion rights?”

p.241…”Invitation to a lynching”. That’s the title of the chapter devoted to the matter related to Anita Hill.

p.250…speaking of his leadership at the EEOC…”What made it controversial, of course, was that I refused to bow to the superior wisdom of the white liberals who thought they knew what was better for blacks; since I didn’t know my place, I had to be put down.”

What follows is a description of the hearings and testimony. I’ll not go thru the details…I believe the Judge.

I think what sums it up best are his own words:

“This is a circus. This is a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, as far as I am concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that, unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you, you will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree.”

p.289…The final words in the book:

“Lord, grant me the wisdom to know what is right and the courage to do it. Amen.”

Of one is interested in the entirety of the hearings, a complete set of transcripts can be found at:

Nomination Hearings for Supreme Court Justices

On a personal note, I want to add a comment about what Judge Thomas said on p. 78 about the differences between the North and South….later…



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