Race: January 2005 Archives

This is the second part of what will be at least a seven-part series on Justice Clarence Thomas. The first post is here, introducing the series and explaining the 98-page paper from which I'm taking the content of posts 2-6 (at least) of this series. In "Just Another Brother on the SCT?: What Justice Clarence Thomas Teaches Us About the Influence of Racial Identity", Angela Onwuachi-Willig argues that Justice Thomas' conservatism is a distinctively black conservatism with a rich history in black conservative tradition. This tradition will be the focus on this post. The first of three sections of her paper details the long history of black conservatism in the United States, going back to the 18th century. Booker T. Washington, of course, was one of the major figures in this great tradition, but he was well over 100 years into it (late 19th/early 20th century). The liberal orthodoxy sees black conservatives as sellouts who seek to accomodate to whites to gain benefits that others aren't willing to seek if it requires giving up too much of blackness. The black conservative tradition, however, has always been the exact opposite. From the very beginning, it was an attempt to accomodate whites to the concerns of black people. Booker T. Washington states this in terms of showing blacks' worthiness by the standards of white people so that white people will accomodate black people. He even uses the word 'accomodate'.

Justice Thomas' Blackness

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Stuart Buck links to an article by Angela Onwuachi-Willig, published by the Iowa Law Review, that makes some interesting claims. The title is "Just Another Brother on the SCT?: What Justice Clarence Thomas Teaches Us About the Influence of Racial Identity".

According to this paper, Justice Thomas' brand of conservatism is unlike that of many other people who take similar positions. Contrary to the claims of many on the left that he's a sellout and a puppet, a good deal of his conservatism derives from his being black. The author considers herself a liberal black womanist, so there's obviously little political baggage driving this paper. She just thinks he's an interesting public figure with an interesting intellectual resume. Oh, and she thinks the liberal jeering that paints him as a puppet of Justice Scalia is a result of the same racism that led to the same connection between Justices Thurgood Marshall and William Brennan that similarly ignored the actual facts.

It's a 98-page paper that I don't expect very many, if any, of my readers to bother reading, so I'll give some highlights in subsequent posts:

Part 2: The Black Conservative Tradition
Part 3: Contemporary Black Conservatism
Part 4: Particular Issues in Black Conservatism
Part 5: Justice Thomas' History and Background
Part 6: Justice Thomas on the Particular Issues
Part 7: Justice Thomas' Judicial Philosophy



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