Book Review: Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas
Publication Date: Apr 24, 2007
List Price: $26.95
Format: Hardcover, 432 pages
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Parent Company: Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC
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Book Reviewed by Kam Williams
’[Clarence] Thomas once said he would never accept a race-based job, and yet he spent an entire federal career in such positions' The irony is that the career path that led him to the most prestigious tenured position in America is one he discourages other blacks from taking... Even as Thomas goes about his work, it's his racial identity that most defines him. Would he even be on the court if he were not black?
Race remains an inescapable factor in most black lives, no matter how successful or disappointing they have turned out to be. Even in his cloistered, rarefied world as a member of the most important judicial body in existence, Thomas will always be black, and he knows it. Not just black, but black before everything else.’
’Excerpted from the Prologue (pg. 6)
Even if Clarence Thomas weren’t a self-hating Uncle Tom, he would have had a
hard time trying to fill the shoes of Justice Thurgood Marshall, a black man who
had risked his life by mounting legal battles to dismantle the Jim Crow system
of segregation all across The South, winning the landmark Brown vs. Board of
Education case, before later ascending to the Supreme Court as an elder
statesman. About all that Clarence the clown had going for him on his spotty
resume’ was the fact that he was a well-connected, right-wing bureaucrat who was
willing to be promoted or wheeled out for a photo op whenever Republicans needed
a Negro yes man.
It didn't help his image any that during his appointment hearings, Anita Hill, a former prot’g’, would make a very credible witness testifying about the sexual harassment she experienced at his hands during the period she was employed by him. But the Senate being the lily-white, male boys' club that it was, his nomination was approved, thereby enabling the possibly-perverted jurist to sit on the country's highest court for life.
Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas is an unauthorized biography which seeks to set the record straight about some of the nagging questions about a man whose name alone tends to raise the blood pressure of the average African-American. Like a black version of Woodward and Bernstein, co-authors Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher, both reporters for the Washington Post, left no stone unturned in search of the truth about this enigmatic political figure.
Much of what we learn here is not much of a surprise, like the fact that Anita Hill was telling the truth after all, and that Thomas is an intellectual lightweight who never voices his own opinion in open court, but rather simply takes his cues from his arch-conservative colleague Antonin Scalia.
Apparently, he does have his positives, witnessed in private, such as his serving as a surrogate father to the son of a nephew serving thirty years in prison. But that barely makes up for his willingness to rubber stamp the efforts of his fellow Republicans on the Supreme Court to overturn all the hard-fought, historic civil rights decisions of the Fifties and Sixties.
A brilliant bio of a baffling hypocrite who revels in eliminating those equal protection measures which had afforded him his opportunity to make it in a society which had previously been perfectly comfortable completely marginalizing people who looked like him.