Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is a hypocrite and, no matter what James Kirchick says in the Los Angeles Times, it is important to call him a hypocrite. Justice Thomas’ life has been one of such enduring hypocrisy that it is the defining element of his personality. He is a hypocrite because of the choices he made in his life, not because of skin color or because of the cards life dealt him.
Justice Thomas should be judged by the content of his character, not by the color of his skin. During his Senate confirmation hearing in 1991, he said he had never participated in any detailed discussion or debate on Roe vs. Wade and that he had not formed an opinion about the case. This is impossible for a reasonable person to believe. Roe vs. Wade is the central theme of the conservative judicial movement of which he was a member. His opinions on Roe vs. Wade make it clear that he was not telling the truth to the Senate.
Nobody made Justice Thomas lie. He, like other potential justices, could simply have refused to answer. He chose not to give his true views. Then, after President Clinton’s impeachment over a perjury accusation, he joined the other eight justices in boycotting Clinton’s State of the Union speech. There is no clearer definition of hypocrisy.
In attacking Anita Hill, Thomas used the same slander that he accused others of using against him. He claimed that she was incompetent and that she only had her jobs because of his generosity. If he is so against racial preferences, why did he abandon his duty to the citizens of this country and hire someone incompetent?
At its heart, Justice Thomas’ hypocrisy is seated in his concept of justice. The heart of racism is that one person is judged to be intrinsically better because of a particular state of being, not because of his or her ethics or performance. While claiming to find this repugnant in the case of affirmative action, Justice Thomas has sought this advantage repeatedly in his own life.
He whines about how his diploma from Yale Law didn’t give him an automatic pass to a good job at a law firm. Perhaps some were suspicious of his degree because of affirmative action. But he seems self evidently unqualified to be a lawyer in a big law firm. When you pay hundreds of dollars per hour for an attorney, you want an attorney who is full of self confidence, not racked with a feeling of having been cheated.
Justice Thomas does not hide his contempt for the concept of equality under the law. In his dissent in the case M.L.B. vs. S.L.J., which concerned a woman who had permanently lost custody of her child because she could not pay court fees to make her arguments, Justice Thomas argued against the idea that states are obliged to give due process to indigent appellants in civil cases. In Justice Thomas’ world, you should win automatically because you are rich, and you should get a job automatically because you graduated from Yale.
People who oppose affirmative action always point to the supposition that those allowed access to jobs or education under affirmative action are less qualified than those who aren’t. But this supposes that one or more standardized tests really are a true judge of one’s qualifications. The reality is that law simply is not rocket science. All that is needed is basic reading comprehension. The most difficult aspect of law is convincing your clients that the law really does apply to them, and they need to employ common sense precautions in their activities.
If we are lucky, and Justice Thomas isn’t remembered as being part of a court that eased the transition from democracy to dictatorship, he will be remembered as a national joke, a man who had so many advantages in his own life, who reached the pinnacle of the legal profession and yet, instead of rejoicing in the fruits of his hard work and good luck, could do nothing more than whine that he should have gotten more because he graduated from Yale.
Robert Lee Hotchkiss Jr. is a computer science student in San Diego.