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wingnut releases memoir! thousands cheer!

Posted by pocochina on September 30, 2007

I’m reading an article right now about Justice Thomas.  Honestly, I don’t know if it’s white privilege, or my obsession with the Supreme Court, or simply that I’m a dyed-in-my-feminist-knickers liberal, but I almsot never think of him as an African-American.  I’m sure if I were African-American that’d change.  However, I always think of him as one of the four wingnuts on the Court.  So reading about him through a race-consciouus perspective is interesting.

Mostly, I find his story disturbing.  He seems to root a lot of his politics in his experience at Yale Law School, claiming that his acceptance was tainted by affirmative action.  But this is quite the circular argument – he graduated in the middle of his class.  Grading in law schools is blind; he didn’t get the Gentleman’s C.  He deserved to be at Yale exactly as much as his classmates.  Not more, not less, exactly.  And now he’s on the High Court.  You’d think he’s a perfect example of why affirmative action in fact works, and was necessary at the time – without a program ensuring seats for racial minorities to counteract racism and classism built into the legal profession at the time, he’d never have been there, and now he’s respected, powerful, and successful.  Without it, his hard work would not have paid off.

He says his Yale degree was devalued because of affirmative action – he couldn’t get a job after graduation.  It seems like classic displacement.  Again, in the middle of his class at Yale Law.  You don’t get there because you have a pretty smile, or whatever.  You get there because you’ve got some brains, and once you graduate, you have some impressive learning behind you.  He seems to want to blame affirmative action when in fact he just couldn’t, no matter what, escape the specter of racism.

And yet, his nomination to the High Court conceivably could have hadnat least something to do with race – he was nominated to replace the iconic Justice Marshall, and were he a white man, the Bush Administration would have been just as pleased to nominate someone with his education and opinions.  Now, I’m not denying that he’s an intelligent man.  (A bitter, wrongheaded misogynist one, yes.  But not stupid.)

And for the record, I do believe Anita Hill.

But I’m staring at the picture of a man embittered and wounded by racism, and even I’m not hardhearted enough to ignore that.  I almost don’t blame him for his anger at the Senate – though I’d point out that he was confirmed and Bork wasn’t.  And I don’t care what a nominee to the High Court looks like, they should not be guilty of what he allegedly put Ms. Hill through, and that should be investigated.

It’s interesting that he said “the issue was abortion” – yanno what?  That’s an acceptable issue.  If someone doesn’t think that a full half of the American people don’t deserve rights over their own bodies, then they do deserve criticism for that.  And it’s ironic, in a way, that he should’ve been called to the carpet for sexual harassment, as both harassment in the work place and anti-choice politics are ways some attempt to keep women from full citizenship and personhood.

There’s also an interesting discussion about the fact that he seldom speaks up during oral arguments.  Apparantly there’s a perception that he’s not smart enough to speak up.  Now, since I hang out more in liberal type places and we tend not to act that way, I’ve literally never heard that before.  Ever.  (I’ve heard he tends to sleep through oral arguments, but not that he’s stupid.)  I can’t shake the idea that this is a ridiculous attempt by someone (and by someone, I do not mean to imply the Justice himself) to make criticisms of his opinions as a jurist sound racist when actually they’re legitimate disagreements with his opinions.

It makes me wonder how I would feel about Justice Thomas if I identified as a WOC.  Since I don’t, I rarely if ever think of Justice Thomas as anything but a right-wing justice.  (No, I don’t deserve a fucking anti-racist cookie for that, but I do take comfort in having overcome at least some of my unconscious internalized racism.)  But do I, in my heart of hearts, feel a bit more antipathy towards conservative women?  I guess I’d have to say yes.  When I think about Bush against Gore, yes, I am angrier at Justice O’Connor than her fellows.  And I can’t separate my disappointment in her as a pro-choice moderate who should have seen what Bush would become from my disappointment in her as a woman who was the key swing vote in the installment of one of the more misogynist administrations in recent memory.

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