I just finished reading My Grandfather’s Son, Justice Clarence Thomas’s autobiography, published in 2007. Absolutely compelling reading—and what that man had to endure over the course of his life brought tears to my eyes numerous times. What he wrote also opened my eyes to the realities of discrimination and racism in America. Naturally, I knew racism existed, but there are those who beat the discrimination drum today when none exists and that waters down real racism, real discrimination. (It’s like the words “women’s rights”—I generally ignore those words in the press today because in Canada they are code for abortion “rights” or otherwise used falsely. But the same words “women’s rights” are rightly used to describe the egregious infringements on true women’s rights in places like Afghanistan. One has to be careful.)
Back to Justice Thomas. My reason to post about him here is twofold. First, his personal story is one of courage, rising above every possible injustice when he would have had good reason to give up. Second, his highly contested nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States came down, ultimately, to his position on Roe v. Wade. Prior to his nomination, Justice Thomas calls himself “a lazy libertarian”—meaning, he essentially had no opinion on abortion defaulting to a let women decide position. As I read his book, I couldn’t help but think that when it comes to the oh-so-very-settled issue of abortion, there was no length to which his opponents were not prepared to go to try and keep him off the bench on the suspicion that he would not be sufficiently pro-choice. (They were right, he wasn’t—which speaks to my notion that when undecided, non-ideological individuals do thoughtfully apply themselves to the topic of abortion, they come out pro-life. In 1992 Justice Thomas wrote a dissenting view in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, saying Roe v. Wade ought to be overruled because it had been wrongly decided.)
There’s another takeaway for the pro-lifers who simultaneously stand up for women’s rights—in particular those who are smart and powerful enough to actually make real changes. One might look at a woman like Sarah Palin as an example. Justice Thomas is and has been his whole life an advocate for equality for blacks, and ardently against racism. But he didn’t do it the way others were, and he didn’t buy into some conventional thoughts of the day and he paid dearly for that in his personal life, in particular. Media vultures were then, as now, all too happy to report on his alleged misdemeanours, while ignoring his side of the story. He prevailed through the hearings, and sits on the Supreme Court today, still, there are parts of his personal reputation he’ll likely never get back. Woe betide the individual who colours outside the lines on conventional dogmas.
I highly recommend his autobiography.by