What’s up folks?! Sorry for the hiatus. I’ve been out of commission with a cold for about a week. I’m at about 80% and getting better by the day. Fear not, my loyal readers (all three of you). I’m doing OK, praise God!
So, while I was bedridden, I managed to catch up on some reading. My book of choice – to the surprise of many (including myself) was Clarence Thomas’ My Grandfather’s Son. I know. Crazy, right? It’s no secret that I’ve been an opponent of Clarence Thomas for many years now. Giving him such distinctive nicknames as “Uncle Clarence” and “Uncle Thom(as)” and calling into question his support of ‘the black agenda’, Thomas was never a model of my admiration. But the book came recommended to me and I – trying to be a bit more open-minded – gave it a crack. I have to say I was pretty impressed.
Perhaps what impressed and interested me most about Justice Thomas was his story. In many ways, it can be argued that he’s the epitome of a sellout. Still in other ways, his life was quite remarkable. Just a few highlights from his book and life:
(1) He grew up in Pinpoint, Georgia; a small, rural, and predominantly black community. There, he first spoke Gullah, a form of creole drawn extensively from West African languages; languages used by many of his descendant slave relatives. He had to work extremely hard to learn English. Given how many of my cousins ‘nem can’t string together simple words to form coherent statements, and have an unwillingness to think beyond the hood, I have to applaud those who do.
(2) Thomas’ father abandoned his family at an early age. He could’ve easily continued the cycle of fatherlessness, but he didn’t. His stood up to be a man for his wife and children. Speaking of his family, I learned that he named his son Jamal. Now, if that ain’t black…
(3) Growing up Roman Catholic, Thomas once has aspirations of being a priest. But after seeing the Catholic Church’s passive lethargy during the Civil Rights movements, he parted ways with them despite being the first (and, at the time, only) black student at his seminary. These days, people leave their churches for all kinds of b***s*** reasons. His was legitimate and noteworthy.
(4) His social conservatism (where I admittedly find myself torn) was a product of his grandfather’s upbringing. Unlike so many grandparents today – many of whom are getting younger and less mature by the minute – Thomas’ grandfather taught him the importance of self-reliance, hard work, and the esteem denigration that arguably comes from welfare. Whether you agree with that or not, Thomas was certainly a man of principles.
(5) People knock his judicial qualifications and cite him as a case of Affirmative Action, a policy he is ironically against. But he was a graduate of Yale Law School, which is no small feat. Unlike certain other affluent law/policymakers, he didn’t have the same connections to push him through. In fact, he made it a point to get a Bachelor’s degree (cum laude) in English first, just to refine the grammar necessary to perform at a higher level.
What I admire too is that the man was still paying off student loans, while serving on the bench. That middle-class reality is what makes Barack and Michelle Obama cool to me as well. Clarence Thomas shares a similar experience.
(6) He took some major shots during the confirmation hearings and the Anita Hill sex scandal. That story was the predominate highlight of his relationship with Hill. Not so discussed however, is how she first got the job. Reportedly, Thomas was approached by a friend who asked him to “help a sister out” with a job. Thomas did. Now, it could be argued that he was expecting sexual favors in return or something. Who knows? But at its root, using your position to “help a sister (or brother) out” is pretty cool.
(7) The dude is a recovering/recovered alcoholic. Overcoming that obstacle for career sake is impressive to me.
Make no mistake, Clarence Thomas represents the ideological antithesis of my mostly progressive leanings. But as a person very critical of the behaviors of black folks, I admittedly took much from his story. Regardless to how you feel about the dude politically, his book was a good one. It comes highly recommended.
Don’t pinch yourself. You’re not dreaming. I actually did say that.