Tag Archives: Clarence Thomas

disappointed in dahlia

Ah, generally I am always happy to read a Dahlia Lithwick piece. She’s insightful, and a clear writer. But she blew it on her recent piece on affirmative action, “The Downsides of Diversity: What Clarence Thomas might have to say about Sarah Palin” (Newsweek; Slate, 2008/8/29).

In the article, she reminds the reader, bemused by McCain’s obviously demographically-influenced selection of Palin as his VP candidate, of Clarence Thomas’ position on affirmative action. Thomas has repeatedly excoriated affirmative action as a humiliation for its intended beneficiaries, placing a permanent mark of stigma on them. He couches his opinions in the strongest language possible, deliberately echoing the stirring phrases that condemned the injustices of segregation and Jim Crow.

Lithwick then looks at Palin’s selection by the McCain campaign, and her treatment both by the campaign and the media at large. No surprise that she observes that this appeal to diversity is better called tokenism, and correctly equates tokenism with (in this instance) sexism. The irony of the Republicans’ copping to the language of diversity is not lost on her, as she observes, “[Diversity is] certainly a noble goal, but it’s one most conservatives have disparaged for decades.”

And then the conclusion:

Liberals inclined to blindly support affirmative action would do well to contemplate the lessons of Sarah Palin and Clarence Thomas. Although the former exudes unflagging self-confidence and the latter may always be crippled by self-doubt, both have become nearly frozen in a defensive crouch, casualties of an effort to create an America in which diversity is measured solely in terms of appearance.

Ah. Oh, no. Christ. This completely confuses the actual goals of affirmative action and diversity with conservative critics’ misapprehension of those goals.

The effort to measure diversity solely in terms of appearance — that’s the conservative myth about diversity. And McCain’s gambit exemplifies the conservative myth about affirmative action: substituting “diversity” concerns for good judgment and a well-rounded selection process that is merit-based. This kind of diversity is better described as an ugly tokenism. It’s certainly not affirmative action, a process of selecting qualified candidates by including considerations of past discrimination that may disguise actual abilities, experience, and potential; as well as considerations of the larger social realities of the harms and goods that flow from perpetuating or failing to remedy past discriminatory behaviors.

As my partner observed, no wonder conservatives hate affirmative action, if they think this is what it is.

But I’m disappointed to see Dahlia Lithwick accepting this strawman’s affirmative action.

thomas doesn’t always mind judicial “intervention”

By JOHN HANNA Associated Press Writer

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Thursday he would prefer not to face another election-related lawsuit, but defended the high court’s decision to get involved in the contentious dispute over the 2000 presidential vote in Florida.

“What are you supposed to do when somebody brings a lawsuit?” Thomas asked University of Kansas law students. “You hear people say the Supreme Court jumped into the last election. I find it very ironic that the very people saying judges are interfering are bringing lawsuits.”

“What do you think? Donald Duck is going to decide it?”

When asked about the prospect of more litigation over the 2004 vote, Thomas said, “I would prefer not to have to decide it, but that joins a long list of things,” adding: “It’s my job.”

Justice Thomas Hopes for Smooth Election

People who say judges are interfering are really trying to say that judges are making illegitimate decisions and stepping beyond their authority. This is a critique that Thomas & his ilk make quite often when talking about decisions they don’t like. But apparently “it’s their job” when it comes to making a decision, like Bush v. Gore, that they like to make.

Too bad folks like Thomas and the Bush administration have politicized this critique to such an extent. It is now basically useless to say that a judge overstepped his (usually) or her authority — that just means you don’t like the decision. Used to be you could use it to say that the judge’s decision was not supported by the law.