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Five facts about Clarence Thomas that perhaps you didn’t know.
June 23, 2014 11:08 AM   Subscribe

Clarence Thomas's Counterrevolution: "The first time Clarence Thomas went to Washington, DC, it was to protest the Vietnam War. The last time that Clarence Thomas attended a protest, as far as I can tell, it was to free Bobby Seale and Erikah Huggins." Corey Robin (previously) discusses the intellectual legacy of Justice Clarence Thomas. See also: "Clarence X? The Black Nationalist behind Clarence Thomas's Constitutionalism.

What is Black Nationalism?
The Oxford African-American Studies Center explains in this photo essay.
Six Questions for Black Against Empire authors Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin.

Background
Juan Williams' 1987 profile of Thomas, then Chairman of the EEOC.
Mark Tushnet's 2003 paper, Clarence Thomas's Black Nationalism.
Juan Williams 2011 discussion of Thomas and Black Nationalism.
posted by anotherpanacea (80 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
I found that NYU law journal article very interesting when it was posted in the previous Supreme Court thread and am pleased to see it as part of a standalone post.

I used to see Clarence Thomas at daily Mass in DC when I briefly lived on Capitol Hill.
posted by Jahaza at 11:17 AM on June 23


I wish Justice Thomas acted and wrote like a Black Nationalist.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:32 AM on June 23 [9 favorites]


Mrs. Clarence Thomas: "We have been in dozens of Wal-Mart parking lots throughout the country, actually it’s one of our favorite things to do if we’re not having to plug in and we’ve got enough electricity and all that. But you can get a little shopping in, see part of real America. It’s fun!" (via WSJ, On the Road Again with Clarence and Ginny)
posted by wensink at 12:00 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Great post, thanks. It's always nice to see analyses of Thomas which go beyond "lololololol he doesn't speak in oral arguments lololololol". Thomas is a much smarter jurist (and a much weirder jurist) than most people give him credit for. I don't generally agree with his jurisprudence or his politics, but he's a genuinely fascinating figure.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:04 PM on June 23 [10 favorites]


When Conservative African Americans (like other populations of Americans, such as low income Americans) vote Republican, they are constantly and consistently voting against their own interest.
I am 100% certain that anyone who writes for Jacobin magazine agrees with that, for what it's worth, although they would probably say the same thing about African Americans and other Americans who vote for Democrats.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:10 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Fuck the entire "voting against your self interest" line. It's fucking patronizing. And more importantly, despite Thomas Frank flogging it for a decade, it doesn't work. The right continues to gain ground.
posted by wuwei at 12:13 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


What does it mean for someone to be a "smart jurist"? Is it like in Philosophy where certain problems are regarded as "interesting", and others "not interesting", based on whether influential philosophy professors give a shit about them?
posted by lodurr at 12:15 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


I remember reading his biography a few years ago, and, IIRC, he went to school surrounded by "well-meaning," white liberals, and he felt isolated and alone. I'm not a Thomas fan, but I can relate to some of his reactions.
posted by Melismata at 12:16 PM on June 23


I found Corey Robin's book The Reactionary Mind enlightening; I feel like I understand the world better because of it. Dismissing something he has to say about conservatism with drive by snark is not prudent.
posted by dhoe at 12:16 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


I mean one of Thomas' arguments against Affirmative Action in colleges is that it would undermine the important role that historically black colleges have played in the US. Its vintage Thomas: interesting, original, well meaning premise that arrives at the wrong conclusion.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:20 PM on June 23 [9 favorites]


This still doesn't explain the pube on the can of Coke.
posted by Token Meme at 12:20 PM on June 23 [10 favorites]


Fuck the entire "voting against your self interest" line. It's fucking patronizing.

How so? There are some people who literally don't understand this point.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:20 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Fuck the entire "voting against your self interest" line. It's fucking patronizing. And more importantly, despite Thomas Frank flogging it for a decade, it doesn't work. The right continues to gain ground.

Fucking patronizing or not, it's fucking *true.* And the Right doesn't gain ground because of that particular argument. The right gains ground because they've *rigged the fucking game.*
posted by stenseng at 12:21 PM on June 23 [17 favorites]


Dismissing something he has to say about conservatism with drive by snark is not prudent.

No, but speaking generally, it's useful and I would argue important to have a clear understanding of what one means when one describes a person as, say, "smart." Thomas is reasonably good at parsing out consistency with his own ideological positions. And he's decent at finding arguments to support his views. Whether he's "smart" or not IMO hinges on whether the arguments are arguably sound, and his seldom are.

We could also consider "clever" as an applicable adjective, and here I'm also not seeing how it would apply. At least as far as I can see, he doesn't usually resort to sophistry a la Scalia.

His arguments are usually out there far enough that they get noticed, and there's a unfortunate tendency for the intellect of the strange to get over-estimated. AFAICS, that happens with Thomas.
posted by lodurr at 12:24 PM on June 23


[drive-by snark derail removed. If you want to register some anti-Thomas angst, at least try to fully explain yourself.]
posted by mathowie at 12:26 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Whether he's "smart" or not IMO hinges on whether the arguments are arguably sound, and his seldom are.

This is a really idiosyncratic definition of smart that I for one am unfamiliar with.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:29 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


This is a really idiosyncratic definition of smart that I for one am unfamiliar with.

What's hard about the difference between smart and clever? A clever person might be able to craft a very convincing argument for the benefits of eating dogshit. A smart person just wouldn't eat dogshit.
posted by stenseng at 12:35 PM on June 23 [6 favorites]


I remember reading his biography a few years ago, and, IIRC, he went to school surrounded by "well-meaning," white liberals, and he felt isolated and alone. I'm not a Thomas fan, but I can relate to some of his reactions.

Right, just as he had also grown up being mocked by other African-Americans for his Gullah accent. Many of his life experiences contributed to a seemingly tight-lipped, isolated personality, with a worldview featuring a pessimistic view of race relations, a strong preference for individualism, and, yes, a crypto-Black Nationalist viewpoint undergirding his conservatism.

I'll comment more later after I can actually read all of these articles.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:35 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


What's hard about the difference between smart and clever?

Nothing at all. But to define smart as 'someone who makes sound arguments' is for lack of a better word, stupid.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:40 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


That's why he keeps so quiet. He writes one major decision and the analysts all come out of the woodwork.

There are a lot of white people who vote for the Republicans against their own best interests. Does that make black people smarter?
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:42 PM on June 23


I read many Thomas decisions in law school. My thoughts on them were, and are, that they were logically sound in so far as they were internally consistent, but nothing more. They seemed to be completely divorced from reality. I can't call that brilliance. Anyone can invent an internally-consistent logical system that ignores events back here on Earth. I think Thomas' theories are coherent, I just also think they are based on assumptions so incompatible with equitable governance and the rights of individual citizens that they are evil.

Look at what he's done with arbitration. It's not enough that SCOTUS ruled that anyone who has contracts of adhesion shoved down his throat is powerless to access real courts to get justice if that contract says anything about arbitration. Thomas had to throw in that even the concept of access to justice is something that should be thrown away, because if you don't have equal bargaining power then go screw yourself. He's a monster.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:47 PM on June 23 [16 favorites]


I found Corey Robin's book The Reactionary Mind enlightening; I feel like I understand the world better because of it. Dismissing something he has to say about conservatism with drive by snark is not prudent.

While I wouldn't want to disagree that this thread so far is a mess of drive-by point-missing, and I also liked the book well enough, this essay strikes me as a pretty typical Robin production in certain ways — it's strong on description, full of local color and weird crosscurrents and confluences in the intellectual history, but kind of weakly put together in structure and argument. And a lot of his broad interpretation isn't actually all that convincing; a lot of this is just slotting Thomas into the one-size-fits-all template the book established, conservatism as "counterrevolution," and declaring the argument complete, e.g.:

Like many counterrevolutionary arguments, Thomas’s beliefs about race are symptomatic of a movement in recession or retreat

This doesn't do much to clarify the famously head-scratching specificities and idiosyncrasies of Thomas's politics, or to explain what ties his version of conservatism to others (this is for me the big weakness of Robin's book, which kind of handwaves a lot more than it really makes a broadly convincing case for the meaning of "conservatism" itself as a single unifying intellectual-historical category). And he doesn't do much to explain why and how white conservatives found it in themselves to embrace Thomas if this stuff was really part of his makeup in any serious way, or — IMO the biggest unaddressed problem here — to distinguish between pure opportunism and serious commitment to an ideology.
posted by RogerB at 12:53 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


That's why he keeps so quiet. He writes one major decision and the analysts all come out of the woodwork.

If you don't want people trying to work out how your thinking works, then becoming a Supreme Court justice might be a self-defeating move. That kind of power doesn't merely invite scrutiny, it demands it.
posted by kewb at 12:54 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


And he doesn't do much to explain why and how white conservatives found it in themselves to embrace Thomas if this stuff was really part of his makeup in any serious way,

White conservatives embrace Thomas to the extent that they share some unity of interest. Thomas more or less says that African-Americans will succeed in the US to the extent that they can scrabble their way through the status quo. This is a fundamentally conservative viewpoint.

To the extent that anybody realizes that Thomas' views share some DNA with his own interpretations of Black Nationalism, this doesn't affect white conservatives, certainly not in any way which would challenge them or harm them. So, they don't care. Why should they?

or — IMO the biggest unaddressed problem here — to distinguish between pure opportunism and serious commitment to an ideology.

Thomas is a lot of things, but he doesn't strike me as an opportunist. If he were, he'd be less aggressively quixotic, and more focused on politicking for votes among his fellow Justices. Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but I can't think of any reason to think that Thomas' genuinely-held views are anything other than what he says they are.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:03 PM on June 23


As for Corey Robin, I enjoyed The Reactionary Mind, but I agree that it had a fair amount of style over substance, heat over light. I wish the book had a sequel, or a companion book of essays.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:05 PM on June 23


It's fucking patronizing.

It's that, but it's also wildly unethical. It's sociopathic for all of one's politics to be grounded in bare self-interest.
posted by jpe at 1:09 PM on June 23 [7 favorites]


Nothing at all. But to define smart as 'someone who makes sound arguments' is for lack of a better word, stupid.

Then I invite you to define it in a different way so people can discuss it.

Call him 'smart' if you want -- but explain what's meant by it.

I'm responding to the fact that some people seem to think Thomas is a "smart jurist", and I'm having a hard time understanding what's meant by that.
posted by lodurr at 1:13 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


This quote (from Juan Williams' 1987 profile) is amazing to me, for reasons I'm not sure I can fully articulate:
"There is no governmental solution," Thomas said. "It hasn't been used on any group. And I will ask those who proffer a governmental solution to show me which group in the history of this country was pulled up and put into the mainstream of the economy with governmental programs. The Irish weren't. The Jews weren't. Use what was used to get others into the economy. Show us the precedent for all this experimentation on our race."
To believe the above, you'd basically have to ignore America's history of assimilation as well as the programs and laws put into place that favored whites at the expense of blacks and other non-white minorities.
posted by supermassive at 1:17 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


It requires very single-track thinking. "There is no governmental solution" -- take very careful note of the implicit singular ("is"). Strictly speaking, it's absolutely correct.

And absolutely trivial. Of course there's no (single, solely) governmental solution. There's no (single, solely) private solution, either.

But this requirement for a single cause/solution basically the substance of most reactionary argumentation: 'It's not perfect as a single [cause / solution], so we must reject it.'

This is a rhetorically convenient position in that it allows you to (selectively) reject just about any argument or solution you want, because no argument is going to address everything, and no solution is going to solve everything.

But I believe it goes deeper. I was a pretty hard-core conservative in my misspent youth, and as a result I know that there's a profound distrust of complex answers in conservative circles. "It's complicated" will often get met with a fairly sincere eye-roll, because they truly deeply believe that the proper, good answer is simple.

You can see this expressed with brutal clarity in Ayn Rand's books, and it's not that different from the coder's desire for "elegance."

[edit to fix missing words]
posted by lodurr at 1:28 PM on June 23 [11 favorites]


Fucking patronizing or not, it's fucking *true.*

So what? I (supposedly) vote against my self-interest by supporting a strong social safety net and other programs that I don't expect to (directly) benefit from. I support raising taxes for the bracket that I'm in. If everyone voted only for their direct interests, it wouldn't be much of a society.
posted by Edgewise at 1:31 PM on June 23 [7 favorites]


yeh, you illustrate pretty well the weakness of 'self-interest' arguments. They always assume 'extrapolated self interest', but they seldom explain exactly how we're all supposed to arrive at the same extrapolation.
posted by lodurr at 1:33 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


To believe the above, you'd basically have to ignore America's history of assimilation as well as the programs and laws put into place that favored whites at the expense of blacks and other non-white minorities.

I don't think that follows. You can think that there is a government harm without thinking there is a government solution. That's basically the heart of the Black Panthers' ideology: the white police can terrorize black communities but they can't fix them. On the Black Panther view, only black people can fix their own communities, because if white people do it it'll just be more colonialism. Which is why their most powerful and dangerous program wasn't the guns, it was the Free Breakfast for Children program.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:35 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]


...by supporting a strong social safety net and other programs that I don't expect to (directly) benefit from.

But you're intelligent enough to see the indirect benefits and the potential for direct benefit should, dog forbid, you come to that.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:37 PM on June 23


What Thomas is doing could be argued as 'clever' by this reasoning: That he's isolating and trimming down the argument to such a simple form that he's able to make it go where he wants it to. He's removed the complexities and ironies and contradictions of real life, and replaced them with ideology, and that could be parsed as clever.

Not wise, though.

I think if I have to pick a word it's probably going to end up being 'assiduous.' Or maybe 'jesuitical'.
posted by lodurr at 1:37 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


But you're intelligent enough to see the indirect benefits and the potential for direct benefit should, dog forbid, you come to that.


And that's exactly what conservatives say about their policies. In other words, if we're looking at long-term self-interest or some diffuse enough notion of self-interest, the theory of voting for self-interest doesn't cut any analytical ice. If it's short-term enough that we can more clearly point to things that are are and aren't in our self-interest, then it's immoral.

So: immoral or useless. Either way, it's crap as a theory of voting.
posted by jpe at 1:52 PM on June 23


we all have multiple self interests. Just because some people appear to be voting against some of their self interests probably just means they're voting for some of their other self interests.
posted by sineater at 1:55 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


Of course there's no (single, solely) governmental solution. There's no (single, solely) private solution, either.

I agree that multifarious forces can achieve together what a single push cannot. But has the last fifty years been a collective push towards a government remedy of the sort which Thomas is skeptical? Do you think, on balance, that the last fifty years of state interventions into African-American communities have been a net positive?

Tally up the affirmative action and racialized mass incarceration; public housing and the brutal policing; the food stamps and the white social workers; the black Presidency and the decades of shame and racism in every government office; integrated schools and two-hour bus rides that made accountability impossible; racial gerrymandering and the destruction of most of the neighborhood non-religious institutions in African-American communities; and tell me: did African-Americans come out ahead?

Becky Pettit did the math, and she says no. Lots of African-Americans are skeptical that a white supremacist government will ever offer solutions, simple or complex, that are actually tailored to the needs of their community. And I think if you dismiss that historically-grounded skepticism as simplistic, then you are yourself in the grip of an ideology. Perhaps the skeptics are wrong. Perhaps we can do better. But we haven't so far.

White conservatives (and more than a few white liberals) think it's because blacks are inferior. But black conservatives think it's something else: they think we white liberals just keep making it worse, and that we don't care so long as we can assure ourselves that we're well-intentioned.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:06 PM on June 23 [3 favorites]


I think its absolutely absurd to say that state interventions which have no intention or design or goal to help black communities (like imprisonment) somehow tar the reputation of things that have helped them.

Tally up the affirmative action and racialized mass incarceration;

Affirmative action has been hugely successful.

public housing and the brutal policing;

Housing less so but it has gotten more succesful

the food stamps and the white social workers

Food stamps keep millions of children from starving. I count that as a huge good thing in my book.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:13 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


You've added up the good. Now add up the bad.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:59 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


And that's exactly what conservatives say about their policies. In other words, if we're looking at long-term self-interest or some diffuse enough notion of self-interest, the theory of voting for self-interest doesn't cut any analytical ice. If it's short-term enough that we can more clearly point to things that are are and aren't in our self-interest, then it's immoral.

At some level this is tautologically true, but if this were really the case then I would expect conservatives to not make much noise about that self-interest. If your vote indicates that "freedom" is more important than jobs or public health, you don't have much standing to complain about being sick and unemployed. This goes equally for liberals who complain about taxes, but for some reason that doesn't seem to come up so much.
posted by bjrubble at 3:04 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


add up the bad
anotherpanacea:
Go watch Hans Rosling's ted talks about millennium development goals.

Maybe we can't do it in the US, but then, whose fault is that? Clearly those in power enforcing and embracing the status quo, Thomas among them.
posted by Freen at 5:24 PM on June 23


White conservatives (and more than a few white liberals) think it's because blacks are inferior. But black conservatives think it's something else: they think we white liberals just keep making it worse, and that we don't care so long as we can assure ourselves that we're well-intentioned.

Umm... white conservatives can "think it's something else" too. There's no reason only black conservatives can think that. I'm surprised you're so blatantly trotting out an all white conservatives are racist line.
posted by Jahaza at 5:53 PM on June 23


Why has the impeachment of Clarence Thomas for ruling on cases in which his wife has taken a personal interest never gotten off the ground?
posted by GregorWill at 6:37 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised you're so blatantly trotting out an all white conservatives are racist line.

Yeah, I don't want to say that, but a lot of movement conservatives follow either Charles Murray or Amy Wax on this: it's either a natural inferiority (Murray) or a cultural one (Wax.) But I guess I'd like to see more white conservatives at least follow Thomas.

Then, too, part of the problem is that there's a big difference between white conservatives and white Republicans. I'm not a conservative, myself, but I know some pretty nice and smart people who are, and they mostly can't stand the shape the conservative party has been in since it was taken over by Fox News.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:45 PM on June 23


Do you think, on balance, that the last fifty years of state interventions into African-American communities have been a net positive?

Well, why would it matter? My point is that Thomas isn't even getting there in his analysis. He's cutting it off before he even gets that far with this reductive Occam-razor.
posted by lodurr at 7:34 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


My point is that Thomas isn't even getting there in his analysis.

Yes, you've made it clear that you're smarter than him, based on reading a single line from a single interview.

I mean, look: take his argument that individual racial classification is inevitably pernicious in aggregate even if it helps individuals. Consider the argument, evaluate his concerns, THEN proclaim yourself smarter than him.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:42 AM on June 24


You've added up the good. Now add up the bad.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:59 PM on June 23 [1 favorite +] [!]


saying there shouldn't be benevolent government intervention in African American communities (subsidies, affirmative action, etc.) because of mass incarceration is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:53 AM on June 24


Yes, you've made it clear that you're smarter than him...

I can see that it's very important for you that Thomas be considered "smart", but I'm not seeing where you've made any convincing arguments that we should share that view.

The argument is not original, nor is it even new, so why should it impress us that he deployed it?
posted by lodurr at 6:06 AM on June 24


Am I the only one who finds the discussion here about whether Clarence Thomas should be considered 'smart' really fucking odd?

and honestly calling it 'odd' is a charitable reading.

This is not a type of conversation we have about most famous people, let alone Supreme Court Justices.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:37 AM on June 24


The arguments are there in the links. I've stated some of them, and you haven't engaged with what I've said. RTFA, right?

It seems very important to you to prove that you're smarter than Thomas. You've hinted so several times in this thread: half your comments are about how we shouldn't call him smart. I don't think you have to agree with him, but when I see white people confiding to other white people that they're clearly smarter than that black guy, and then even saying that he only got his job through affirmative action, I can understand why a black conservative might take the view that affirmative action is just another tool for white supremacy. The trend is not original; it's not even new. :-)

I don't, actually, agree with it. But I don't see you meaningfully engaged with it, at all. And that, I think, it troublesome.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:38 AM on June 24


The arguments are there in the links. I've stated some of them, and you haven't engaged with what I've said. RTFA, right?

How do you want me to engage? They're not arguments that are new with Thomas, and they're old, and all Thomas is doing here is constructing a legal rationalization within which to cast them. It's notable, sure; it's clever; but I'm still not seeing any argument for why Thomas's presentation makes him a "smart jurist."
posted by lodurr at 7:02 AM on June 24


Here's why I care about the "smart jurist" label:

We privilege all kinds of shit from all kinds of people based on whether those people are labeled "smart." 'Eric Cantor is an asshole, but he's really smart." "Paul Ryan is really smart about economics."

"Smart" becomes shorthand for "this is vile, but you need to give it special credit anyway."
posted by lodurr at 7:04 AM on June 24


when I see white people confiding to other white people that they're clearly smarter than that black guy, and then even saying that he only got his job through affirmative action

You might consider restricting your arguments to things actually stated in this thread.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:08 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I don't think it's an unfair question to ask; I was conscious e.g. that my comments could be taken that way. I'm pretty sure that's not what I mean [can you ever really know that, totally?], but it's definitely been done.
posted by lodurr at 7:39 AM on June 24


I'm still not seeing any argument for why Thomas's presentation makes him a "smart jurist."

You're not looking. You're not even reading or responding. Worse: your comments have all been about IQ and its cognates: Thomas is "simple," he's "clever" but not "smart," he's not "original" and in fact his claims are "trivial," and really he's "reductive" and "vile" so we can ignore him. It's all you seem to want to talk about, this IQ thing. Willful blindness is a pretty standard part of the racial contract, but I've rarely seen it so explicitly stated. If you can't or won't acknowledge how your rhetoric and refusal to read is part and parcel of racist ideology, I don't think there's much to talk about.

Here's how I'd put it: we do, in fact, live in a white supremacist society. Liberals might decry racism, but we're steeped in it, it's a deep part of our culture. So most of the time, we keep our racism to ourselves, but every so often, we find an opportunity where we get to hate someone, and so we do, and we forget that we're not supposed to be racist and we let that out of the bag. The whole debate over Thomas's intelligence is a weird ad hominem: if he's wrong, he's wrong. Just say so (and why!) and leave IQ out of it.

So the idea that this thread has become about debating the man's IQ rather than his ideas is pretty objectionable. After the last thread I'm not surprised to see it happen, but it's so transparent that I'd think you'd take a moment to reflect on why that's all you want to talk about.

Part of my bias here is that I think partisanship is blinding us: we listen to the other side too little, even when they're making a good point. And I think Thomas makes good points, especially on the effectiveness of traditional legal remedies, that liberals sometimes overlook. And part of that is because people treat him as if he's not smart enough to have "original" ideas worth looking at in the first place. The Parents v. Seattle concurrence and the Zelman concurrense are serious acts of jurisprudence: among other things, he points out that integration destroyed centers of Black excellence, took excellent Black teachers out of Black classrooms and put them in White classrooms, leaving majority Black classrooms with substandard instruction, frequently by whites who didn't understand the culture and harbored unconscious racism. At every income level, Blacks have higher levels of educational attainment than whites, but they also have higher unemployment for their educational attainment than whites. Yet their unemployment rates reflect longer searches. These are facts that should make us blush with shame, not yawn at the "trivial" claims being made. He even weaves in some public choice theory. You can see similar arguments, it's true: in people like Henry Gates Jr. and Cornell West and Huey Newton.

The Virginia v. Black dissent is the only one that got cross-burning right, and it was only when Judith Butler came along to tell us so that liberals started to agree and question the O'Connor orthodoxy that intent was material when it comes to burning a cross on somebody's lawn.

Black nationalism is a kind of conservatism, but it's not the same kind as you're used to. Maybe give it a read.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:51 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Worse: your comments have all been about IQ and its cognates...

Bullshit. We're done.
posted by lodurr at 7:57 AM on June 24


See for yourself. Out of 11 comments, nine are explicitly on this topic: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

The other 2 comments are implicitly on the issue of intelligence, and your last comment is just a denial that that's what the other comments were about. (Ctrl-F "lodurr" is easier than clicking the links.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:04 AM on June 24


I've been critical of lodurr in this thread but to assert that lodurr was talking about Thomas's IQ is really really unfair and on the verge of gross.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:07 AM on June 24


I think if you look, you'll see that it's true. I've linked the comments. Tell me: what, other than "smart," "clever," "simple," and its cognates, has lodurr contributed?
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:08 AM on June 24


I clearly have been following this thread and read what lodurr wrote. Hell I even quoted some of the things he says and criticized them. However lodurr never mentioned IQ (which is completely different than whether or not Thomas is smart).
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:13 AM on June 24


They're not the same word, but they're the same concept. Remember the debate about Obama being "articulate?" When we see folks claim the President isn't smart, we know we're seeing racism. "Smart" is a dogwhistle for "IQ."

Of course, the thing about the dog whistle is, we don't always know when we're hearing it. We can even inadvertently echo it. But the whole point to this post was to offer articles in which professionals take Thomas's views seriously. Can we at least do that?
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:19 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I just stopped in to say, you can be scary smart and use that super power for evil. I don't think Thomas is scary smart; he mostly tracks with what other conservative intellectuals have laid down, but his writing seems to betray a sizable intellect that is able to recapitulate sophisticated arguments, albeit while ignoring great swaths of reality (see conservative intellectuals previously mentioned). Whether this reflects his or his clerks' abilities, I have no way of knowing, but this is uncertainty is true of all SCOTUS justices, no?
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:29 AM on June 24


lodurr is a commenter on Metafilter, not a politician trying to talk to two audiences. I think its really vile to say that when lodurr says 'smart' what s/he really means is 'IQ'
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:33 AM on June 24


The other thing about dogwhistles is, they're inherently in the ear of the beholder.

Also, if your claim is '"Smart" is a dogwhistle for "IQ"', then I think the word you really want is "conflation", not "dogwhistle."

What you're claiming is that I'm encoding racism by casting aspersions on Thomas's intelligence. The beauty part of that claim is that it can't be challenged -- anything I do to challenge it will be suspect.

So, yes, we're done, it's not a discussion that can be engaged in this context anymore.
posted by lodurr at 8:46 AM on June 24


> Here's why I care about the "smart jurist" label:

> We privilege all kinds of shit from all kinds of people based on whether those people are labeled "smart."


This doesn't seem like a very profitable line of argument to me. People who have some wisdom are going to know that smart can be combined with being a horrible person, and won't be cowed by the "smart" label.

People who don't have the smarts to see past the "smart" label aren't going to be smart enough to follow an argument showing that Thomas isn't actually smart. It like some mild variation on the Dunning-Kruger effect.

This all reminds me of a description I heard of Newt Gingrich — "He's a stupid person's idea of what a smart person sounds like." If I meet someone who thinks Newt Gingrich is a genius I won't try to show how facile and weak Gingrich's ideas are; I'll try to show him what a bad effect he has had on America.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:11 AM on June 24


I feel like you're undermining your own point with the Gingrich example. I've met a LOT of people who privilege his opinion because they label him as "smart." That may not be a wise ("smart") thing to do, but they do it.

Now, a couple of problems I can see if I were to take this argument very far:

It could lead to anti-intellectualism (and lord knows we don't need more of that in the US).

It can lead to totally ignoring the messenger, which is a problem because everyone can be conned and the clever messenger can make a (bull)shitty idea sound like clear and true reason, given the right audience and 3-card monte skills. (See: Newt Gingrich.)
posted by lodurr at 10:52 AM on June 24


Also, if your claim is '"Smart" is a dogwhistle for "IQ"', then I think the word you really want is "conflation", not "dogwhistle."

What is the sense of "smart" that is not tied to "intelligence"? If what you mean is that he's wrong, why do you keep coming back to this word? As many others have pointed out, someone can be smart but wrong. Let's assume that you and I are smart: one of us has to be wrong, right? Why can't the same thing be true of Thomas: that like his colleagues on the court he is smart, but that he is (sometimes/often/always) wrong?

And why are you so resistant to addressing the content of his arguments? Why don't they deserve a reading and response? It seems like this is tied to them not being smart on your view. But surely if the best thing we can say for liberalism is that only smart people are liberal (and by the way, what it means to be smart is to be liberal) then we're on shaky ground.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:55 AM on June 24


I keep coming back to the phrase 'smart jurist' because it was used in thread, and because (as I've stated ad nauseum) I hear people use it in a problematic way. If you choose not to believe my reasons for using it, fine, but pardon me if I don't engage you on that.

I'm not saying anything or making any claims about liberalism or conservatism with regard to "smartness." If you'd really read my comments instead of reacting to them, you might have come to understand that "smart" isn't necessarily a compliment in my book.
posted by lodurr at 11:59 AM on June 24


Sticherbeast just said that Thomas was a "smarter jurist... than most people give him credit for." That seems a pretty mild claim, in context, and it doesn't seem to justify all the effort you've put in here to argue it.

Do you know that there's a long history of denigrating Thomas: not just as wrong, but as dumb, sleeping through oral arguments, parroting Scalia, getting his job only because of his race, reductive, simplistic, one-note, and so on? Do you also know that together these things fit a pattern that is pretty typical of white responses to African-American intellectuals as lazy, stupid, derivative, and incapable of understanding complexity?

You may have fallen into this pattern inadvertently, but consider the possibility that the deep racism that structures our society might have something to do with it. (In much the same way as attacks on Ann Coulter tend to be misogynist: those are the tools of disdain and contempt our society supplies.)

In any case, I'm happy to let this drop, but it seems that if you want to say Thomas is wrong (smartly or stupidly) you should address some of the claims in the links themselves, show where his jurisprudence goes wrong, that sort of thing.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:55 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


That seems a pretty mild claim, in context, and it doesn't seem to justify all the effort you've put in here to argue it.

So, we're not supposed to care about words or phrases and hwo they're used unless you approve, is that it?

Yes, I am aware of the long history of denigrating Thomas. What you're basically saying is that we're not allowed to question his intelligence or qualifications to be on the court, because racism. That's a non-starter, here, and in no small part because Thomas keeps opening the fucking door himself.

I'll come back at you and suggest that if you want to cry 'racism', you should make a case for it, instead of saying "well other folks meant it this way, so I'm going to assume you did too."
posted by lodurr at 1:43 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


What you mean doesn't matter. You can be racist without meaning to do so, in much the same way as burning a cross on someone's lawn ought to be considered hate speech no matter what the intentions. Which is something Justice Thomas alone saw in Virginia v. Black.

So since you won't address his arguments in any other cases, perhaps you'll address them here. Why does intent matter when dealing with the viciousness of America's slavery and segregation and KKK terrorism? Isn't intent irrelevant if an action has the concrete effect of racist hate speech? If not, why not?
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:58 PM on June 24


"Willful blindness is a pretty standard part of the racial contract, but I've rarely seen it so explicitly stated. If you can't or won't acknowledge how your rhetoric and refusal to read is part and parcel of racist ideology, I don't think there's much to talk about."

Ironically, in his opinion in Parents v. Seattle, Thomas explicitly derides the idea of teaching white students about the "invisible knapsack" as an example of why local schoolboards should not be entrusted to make racial policy. Thomas would dissent that willful blindness is part of the racial contract, or at the very least that it should be taught as such.

His opinion is also full of self-citations for things baldly asserted, e.g. "The Constitution abhors classifications based on race, not only because those classifications can harm favored races or are based on illegitimate motives, but also because every time the government places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provision of burdens or benefits, it demeans us all."

Likewise, the through going contention that the limit of remedy (barring a few exceptional cases) for discrimination is an end to de jure discrimination is advocating a bare set of laws rather than a theory of justice — Thomas is Draconian in philosophy, something that can be seen again and again in his decisions, e.g. the arbitration rulings.

That you cite the Zelman concurrence in the same breath is odd; his argument in Zelman directly contradicts that of Seattle. If the 14th Amendment must be read as "race blind," per Seattle, then it cannot perforce encourage greater educational opportunity for underprivileged minority students. Furthermore, he dismisses arguments in Seattle about the pernicious effects on students left behind having disproportionate harms to minority students while ignoring the same harms in Zelman. The only thing consistent between the two is a deep anti-statist lean.

"The Virginia v. Black dissent is the only one that got cross-burning right, and it was only when Judith Butler came along to tell us so that liberals started to agree and question the O'Connor orthodoxy that intent was material when it comes to burning a cross on somebody's lawn.

That gloss of the argument very much implies that a) you want to be seen as smarter than liberals, and b) that you got it wrong. The decision was pretty emphatic on the ability of the state to restrict burning crosses and prosecute if there was intention to intimidate. But the statute that took a burning cross as prima facie evidence of intent would have criminalized this Madonna video.

"Do you know that there's a long history of denigrating Thomas: not just as wrong, but as dumb, sleeping through oral arguments, parroting Scalia, getting his job only because of his race, reductive, simplistic, one-note, and so on? Do you also know that together these things fit a pattern that is pretty typical of white responses to African-American intellectuals as lazy, stupid, derivative, and incapable of understanding complexity? "

The counterpoint is that you're falling into the reactionary conservative position of denying that e.g. race had anything to do with Thomas's appointment. It was discussed both times his name was considered for nomination, and was a factor in his nomination to replace Marshall. Likewise, the ABA only rated Thomas as qualified after concerted lobbying by the White House and Republican senators, giving him one of the lowest ratings ever for a SCOTUS nominee. And to further that: African American men are often hypersexualized and portrayed as predators, but that doesn't mean he didn't sexually harass Anita Hill; it reads as if you're trying to dismiss all criticism of Thomas as racist, and thereby holding internet commenters to a standard that either leads to them agreeing with you that Thomas is brilliant or being dismissed as part of a pattern of white supremacism.
posted by klangklangston at 2:09 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


"What you mean doesn't matter. You can be racist without meaning to do so, in much the same way as burning a cross on someone's lawn ought to be considered hate speech no matter what the intentions. Which is something Justice Thomas alone saw in Virginia v. Black."

You're repeating that in, no pun intended, inflammatory terms that overwhelm reason with passion. The decision still would prohibit burning crosses on lawns, it would not prevent Like a Prayer. Arguing that is inherently racist is dubious.
posted by klangklangston at 2:12 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


"Furthermore, he dismisses arguments in Seattle about the pernicious effects on students left behind having disproportionate harms to minority students while ignoring the same harms in Zelman. "

Sorry, that was muddled. What I meant was that he dismisses the harms to Seattle students left in "racially imbalanced" schools as insufficient to justify intervention based on race, while arguing for a de facto race-based justification for intervening in racially imbalanced schools in Ohio. He also ignores that the outshot of voucher programs is to increase the segregation and diminish the possibility of adequately funding inner city schools. The only thing consistent between the two is that Thomas does not feel that the state can make a positive intervention in minority children's lives.
posted by klangklangston at 2:19 PM on June 24


Courts can make use/mention distinctions without protecting intimidation. The Madonna video does not intimidate; a cross burned in someone's yard does. I mean, you're going for an ad absurdist argument here, but don't you think that if Madonna had filmed that video in a Black family's yard without their permission, we'd be outraged? Burned in an African-American family's yard, there is no question that this act is deeply threatening. Notably Thomas here diverges from his concurrence with Scalia in RAV v St. Paul.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:33 PM on June 24


Within the internal logic of Thomas' arguments, the actually existing effects of voucher programs are beside the point. He feels that he must make legal arguments, not policy arguments. Thomas cares about his own interpretation of the Constitution (and of stare decisis).

Regardless, his pessimism about state involvement is yet another example of his weird existence as a Negaverse Black Nationalist. To Thomas, no white liberal is one-tenth as useful as a black person taking control of their own destiny. I don't agree with Thomas, of course, but it's worth examining his internal logic.

Compare Thomas with how Louis Farrakhan had found favor with many white conservatives.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:45 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


The counterpoint is that you're falling into the reactionary conservative position of denying that e.g. race had anything to do with Thomas's appointment. It was discussed both times his name was considered for nomination, and was a factor in his nomination to replace Marshall.

See, that's just weird. Of course race played a role in the nomination of a Black man to fill Thurgood Marshall's seat. But we don't say that Elena Kagan got her job just because she's a woman, do we?

Likewise, the ABA only rated Thomas as qualified after concerted lobbying by the White House and Republican senators, giving him one of the lowest ratings ever for a SCOTUS nominee.

I'm not sure where the ABA is mentioned in the Constitution, but there's plenty of evidence that they're racist and sexist in their ratings. Plenty.

And to further that: African American men are often hypersexualized and portrayed as predators, but that doesn't mean he didn't sexually harass Anita Hill; it reads as if you're trying to dismiss all criticism of Thomas as racist,

I don't know a lot about the Anita Hill case. I wouldn't dismiss those criticisms, though Thomas himself famously called it a "high tech lynching." I'd be interested in some parsing of that case and its relevance for his qualifications. I'd be prone to think that the eighties were a bad time to be a woman in the workplace, and that Thomas may (well) have been guilty of sexual harassment. I'm not sure if that means he wasn't qualified for the Court: I mean, Bill Clinton certainly must have been guilty of similar activities, and I tend to defend him. But those are my priors, and I'm persuadable.

and thereby holding internet commenters to a standard that either leads to them agreeing with you that Thomas is brilliant or being dismissed as part of a pattern of white supremacism.

I don't care much about Thomas's IQ. I think he's "smarter than people give him credit for" but that's a low bar, because racism. I'd rather just talk about his ideas and arguments, which you've done. So thank you!
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:52 PM on June 24


"Courts can make use/mention distinctions without protecting intimidation. The Madonna video does not intimidate; a cross burned in someone's yard does. I mean, you're going for an ad absurdist argument here, but don't you think that if Madonna had filmed that video in a Black family's yard without their permission, we'd be outraged? Burned in an African-American family's yard, there is no question that this act is deeply threatening. Notably Thomas here diverges from his concurrence with Scalia in RAV v St. Paul."

You misread the decision and dissent. The majority held that intimidating usage of burning crosses is still able to be regulated, however the act of burning a cross does not constitute prima facie evidence of intent to intimidate as per the statute. Thomas held that the very act of burning a cross does constitute prima facie evidence of intent, and said that may be rebutted at trial. If we followed Thomas's opinion, Madonna's video would have been enough to get her tried in Virginia. You're arguing like the majority said, "Hey everybody, let's burn crosses!" rather than pointing out that a statute that doesn't distinguish from intimidation is unconstitutional.

"See, that's just weird. Of course race played a role in the nomination of a Black man to fill Thurgood Marshall's seat. But we don't say that Elena Kagan got her job just because she's a woman, do we?"

Elena Kagan, the former dean of Harvard Law School and White House Solicitor General? Kagan, who replaced Stevens? It seems a bit tendentious to present Kagan as analogous, especially when Thomas himself has noted that many of his opportunities came specifically because he was black. '"His entire judicial philosophy is at war with his own biography," said Michael Fletcher, co-author of "Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas." "He's arguably benefited from affirmative action every step of the way."' Thomas had never argues a case nor appeal in any federal court, nor produced any scholarly work prior to being named to the SCOTUS.

"I'm not sure where the ABA is mentioned in the Constitution, but there's plenty of evidence that they're racist and sexist in their ratings. Plenty."

The constitutional mandate is the rubric of "advise and consent," and there has been an ABA standing committee on Federal nominations since at least 1960. And do you have evidence that they were specifically racist in Thomas's particular rating, rather than basing it on his lack of experience? In any event, even Thomas doubts Bush's putative claim that he was the "most qualified" candidate available.

"I wouldn't dismiss those criticisms, though Thomas himself famously called it a "high tech lynching.""

He did, which is why part of why I'm careful about endorsing his views of racial persecution. He has a long history of utilizing race claims when it's convenient — he says that his race worked against him in his nomination to the Supreme Court because he was denied a nomination for Brennan's seat, while ignoring that his race worked for him in getting confirmed to Marshall's.

"I'd be interested in some parsing of that case and its relevance for his qualifications. I'd be prone to think that the eighties were a bad time to be a woman in the workplace, and that Thomas may (well) have been guilty of sexual harassment. I'm not sure if that means he wasn't qualified for the Court: I mean, Bill Clinton certainly must have been guilty of similar activities, and I tend to defend him. But those are my priors, and I'm persuadable."

Thomas is almost certainly guilty of sexual harassment and has a long, vocal history of misogyny and venom toward women. While credible sexual harassment allegations should have been enough to prevent him from being confirmed, they really do speak to a larger problem with Thomas's judgment regarding women, something that frankly is more important on the SCOTUS than in the White House.

It's also worth noting that Thomas is so idiosyncratic in his views that he thinks Affirmative Action is worse than Japanese Internment.

I don't think he's an idiot. I do think that he's entirely separated from the public in any meaningful sense and that combines with his incoherent Originalist philosophy in a way that robs justice from a great many people.
posted by klangklangston at 4:53 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


If we followed Thomas's opinion, Madonna's video would have been enough to get her tried in Virginia.

This isn't really true. The statute in Virginia v. Black barred the burning of crosses, with intent to intimidate, "on the property of another, a highway or other public place." Such activity is distinct from a music video merely depicting such an act.

Prima facie evidence is, definitionally, rebuttable. Prima facie evidence is not inherently uncommon or troublesome in and of itself. A video of me shouting "I'LL KILL YOU!" and bloodily stabbing somebody in the neck might constitute prima facie evidence of assault, but I could rebut that by showing that this was simply a scene from a movie I was shooting in my backyard, that my "victim" was a wiling actor, that the knife was a fake, that the blood was Karo, etc. I would only lose my case if I exercised my right to not present a defense. Of course I have the right to not present a defense. I just don't have a right to perpetual, automatic immunity from criminal prosecution.

Remember, the plurality held as it did in Black not on the basis of the statute alone, but because the jury instructions had so badly bungled the concept of prima facie evidence, and then the Virginia Supreme Court never properly disavowed those jury instructions. As such, the plurality said that they could not disentangle the wording of the statute itself from the jury instructions which had been applied to it.

While I disagree with Thomas' dissent (and Scalia's concurrence), their arguments aren't all that nutty. To bring this back to Thomas being Thomas, it is illustrative to see how Scalia and Thomas diverged from this, and from one another.

Scalia and Thomas agreed with one another that a jury ought to be able to infer intimidatory intent from the mere act of burning a cross on another's property, on a highway or in public.

However, Scalia agreed with the plurality that the respondents Elliott and O'Mara ought to have their cases remanded, and that Black's judgment could not stand. Scalia differed from the plurality in that he thought that Black ought to be able to be retried.

Scalia spits fire, which is unfortunate, because many of his arguments are actually fairly fine-grained and not-unreasonable. Why invalidate an ambiguous statute on the basis of an overbroad jury instruction? (The plurality's case law on this point is debatable.) Why declare part of a statute to be "facially invalid", while also holding out hope that the Virginia Supreme Court could save it through interpretation? (Did the plurality declare that the statute was "facially invalid" because this was true, or because it produced more just results than a theoretically more-accurate alternative?)

On the whole, Scalia nonetheless understands the relevance of the Virginia Supreme Court never properly disavowing the defective jury instructions, and so he votes as he does.

Thomas, on the other hand, has his own way of thinking. He agrees with Scalia that a jury ought to be able to infer intimidatory intent from the act of burning a cross on the property of another, on a highway, or in public.

Thomas differs, however, in that he flat-out doesn't care about what the Virginia Supreme Court did or didn't say. In his view, the Supreme Court, as the top court in the land, can simply run roughshod over bad case law. If the courts got it wrong, then it is the job of the Supreme Court to get it right.

This is an odd belief in a common law system, but it's difficult to write off entirely. The Court does indeed overrule case law, even established case law. Between Thomas and everybody else, it's only a matter of degree.

It's also funny to square that belief with the internal logic of originalism. For Thomas, the Supreme Court is both highly powerful and highly limited - only able to divine original meaning, but able to do so with terrific force. Like a tornado, a "finger of God".
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:53 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


That you cite the Zelman concurrence in the same breath is odd; his argument in Zelman directly contradicts that of Seattle. If the 14th Amendment must be read as "race blind," per Seattle, then it cannot perforce encourage greater educational opportunity for underprivileged minority students. Furthermore, he dismisses arguments in Seattle about the pernicious effects on students left behind having disproportionate harms to minority students while ignoring the same harms in Zelman. The only thing consistent between the two is a deep anti-statist lean.

I dunno. I'd love to talk Zelman: I think you've manufactured a contradiction between Thomas's opinion there and in Parents v. Seattle. On Thomas's view, the 14th amendment isn't race blind; it proscribes race consciousness except when responding to state discrimination. In Zelman, Thomas says that the history of poor performing minority schools DOES count as state discrimination in need of remedy; and in Seattle he says that the kinds of remedies that can be used should never include the individual racial classification of elementary school children. Lots of other remedies are still possible, but don't go creating huge bureaucracies of racial classification, because that hasn't tended to be a good thing in US history. And don't say this time it's different: that's what we always say.

It's also worth noting that Thomas is so idiosyncratic in his views that he thinks Affirmative Action is worse than Japanese Internment.

This is a weirdly deliberate misreading. Thomas thinks national security is a more obviously compelling government interest than the educational benefits of diversity, yes. So do I, and so should you. It's just that we've gotten to such a weird place on the court's race decisions that we're have that debate (contrasting invasion, sabotage, and terrorism risks with the benefit to white people of having African-Americans in the classroom) instead of remembering the serious racism that infects all of our institutions. Fisher and the university-level affirmative action cases are a total muddle, at this point. The liberal justices have been backed into a corner and they know it.

The real problem the court faces in cases like Fisher, Zelman, Seattle, etc. is justifying affirmative action or individual racial classification or school choice in the absence of de jure discrimination. Which is dumb, because we had a whole lot of that not so long ago, and it clearly still echoes into the present.

I happen to think that the long history of de jure discrimination implicates every US institution, regardless of particulars, but the whole of the Supreme Court has disagreed with that reading. Thus, they're having a pretty silly argument in cases like Fisher: instead of saying, "Hey, remember slavery, segregation, and the KKK? They're still relevant here!" the court says, "Well, forget about slavery, segregation, and the KKK: wouldn't it be nice if we had more skin colors and ethnic groups in Freshman composition?" The real problem is that everyone on the court accepts that "Forget about it!" rubric for thinking through racial remedies. That problem goes back to Milliken v. Bradley and the refusal to enforce interdistrict busing.

Yet Thomas is the one Justice who doesn't forget about that history and continually brings it up. And what he says in cases like Seattle and Zelman is: as a Justice, it's my job to keep my eye on the de jure. De jure justifications at the SCOTUS level affect national policy for centuries, and we can't afford to make exceptions for racialized classifications just because the individuals involved think they're doing the right thing. After all, that's how we got segregation and internment camps in the first place.

And here's where I think Thomas is offering a powerfully Black Nationalist perspective: he seems to me to be saying that as a matter of policy we should remember that we live in a white supremacist society, that Blacks are in the minority and the political institutions will usually be controlled by white politicians and white voters. So always be careful of the tools and remedies you make available to those white racists, because they'll use the rubric of the white man's burden to justify all sorts of evils. They'll use well-meaning liberals as the tip of the spear, like colonial powers used missionaries or US neo-imperialism uses the Peace Corps.

I mean, as a white liberal, I find myself worried about the ways good intentions and reform get twisted into such terrible institutions for black and brown people, as they've been twisted over and over and over again. Somewhere above, someone said that we should ignore the affects of the police and prisons because they're not justified in terms of helping African-Americans. But of course they are: law and order rhetoric is popularly justified by pointing to black victims without noting that policing and mass incarceration are a poor remedy that creates just as many victims as it avenges.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:19 AM on June 25


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