I know this is a sensitive subject for us so let me start off with a bit of a disclaimer. I, Tory Russell, Ferguson Front-liner and Movement Leader, am not telling our people to follow Clarence Thomas’ thought process on race. Nor am I telling people in the movement to use the Supreme Court justice as some type of political north star. I am simply stating that the conclusion from Thomas spearheading the dismantling of affirmative action as we know it will expose the liberal racists hiding in admission offices across this nation. Now let’s get into it.
The writings were on the wall. We didn’t know the time nor the hour but we already knew the results. A Republican majority on the Supreme Court guaranteed that this landmark decision would be shot down, but I wanted to hear why. Not from one side or the other but from Clarence Thomas himself. I wanted to know what his argument would be and what it would mean for Black people’s liberation in America. And to me, Thomas surprisingly delivered.
This is my last disclaimer, I think. I am not saying that Clarence Thomas is the new Malcolm X. And I am definitely not saying that him projecting a “colorblind” application of the Constitution is the political analysis that we as Black people should ever have about this country. I am simply saying that his ultimate reason for wanting to end affirmative action was to expose the hypocrisy of it because he is a failed attempt at true integration.
Supreme Court Justice Thomas has made it clear that he is anti-forced integration. And believe it or not, he was for separation in college as he stated in his book, “My Grandfather’s Son.” To spare you the details, he went from a little Black boy who was picked on for having a Geechee accent in Jim Crow Georgia to being in Yale University because of affirmative action.
So why is he against it? Well, as Reuters reminds, ”people at Yale and in the broader legal community suggested [Thomas] had been admitted at the Ivy League law school because of racial preferences, which were meant to compensate for years of discrimination against African Americans.”
But he sees it as a smoke screen.
“I felt as though I’d been tricked, that some of the people who claimed to be helping me were in fact hurting me,” he wrote in his 2007 memoir.
And that brings me to why I agree with him. These Ivy League schools practice legacy admissions which lead to legacy job placements that allow them to create the exact policies and rulings that have and continue to subjugate Black people to this day. I mean, 16 of the 44 presidents went to Ivy Leagues schools. In the decade before 2022, all nine Supreme Court judges went there, as well. With countless key cabinet members also being alumni, it never stopped the racist policy from being cranked out from these prestigious institutions. Racist left- and right-wing think tanks, foundations and lobbyists were cultivated from these white supremacist universities that all have ties to the economic supply chain of slavery if they weren’t also built by slaves themselves. And what Thomas states in his concurrence about them using affirmative action as a way to dodge their historically racial atrocities is right on point. He and I share this thought that liberals can be and are more racist than conservatives are portrayed to be.
I lied, this is my last disclaimer. I am not saying that conservatives are not racist. I don’t even think they are less racist. And I’m also not buying his negligent sentiments in his concurrence calling racial admissions some type of reverse racism. But I think Thomas and I equally believe that liberal tactics of integration, affirmative action or CRT are so pervasive that those Black people who want to achieve new heights in society can’t see that these, too, are forms of white supremacy tricks to keep us down and divided. They just aren’t direct about it so it doesn’t get the same ire from mainstream media, or more importantly, Black leaders who are supposed to be trained to call it out.
What Justice Thomas has done, knowingly or unknowingly, will make us revisit the “Separate but Equal” question: Did Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund get it right or wrong when they chose to integrate the schools rather than fight for equal funding? And this should force HBCUs, for the first time in their history, to become Black students’ first choices for higher education based on merit and not where you end up when PWIs don’t let you in. Only time will tell on those things.
I think that Clarence Thomas, though we do not agree on much of anything, is not fooled by white supremacy on the left and prefers his racism to be direct so he can play the game honestly. We will always disagree on his alliances with conservatives who push anti-Black policies at every level of the government. We will always disagree with his treatment of Anita Hill. And we will always disagree with him on using affirmative action to reach his zenith for personal, professional and financial gain and then saying no more for other Black people who aspire to do such.
But what if Thomas is trying to warn us of the perils of assimilation? Maybe he is using his own life as a cautionary tale for those of us who are coming after him. What if he’s telling on all the other Black faces in high places who we don’t call a sellout or Uncle Tom, who also achieved their success the same way, just through liberal means? I think the real lesson behind it all is that none of those trinkets that these racists will offer you, whether they be liberal, conservative or somewhere in between, are worth your soul. Because what does it benefit you to gain the whole world but your people still aren’t free?
Tory Russell is a Ferguson Uprising Organizer, Internationally recognized Black Movement Leader and Director of Organizing for the International Black Freedom Alliance.
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