Much less traveled on Clarence Thomas’ avenue – Regulation & Freedom
Early on in Michael Pack’s gripping new documentary on Justice Clarence Thomas, Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words – a first-person profile of controversial justice with candid interviews with Justice Thomas and his wife Virginia – Thomas refers to a poem He studied in high school, Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. The line that stayed with him after all these years was: “Two roads diverged in a forest, and I – / I took the one less traveled, / and that made the difference.” (Emphasis added.) At critical points in his life, he appears to have taken the unconventional path that led to a goal which, while satisfying to him, may be difficult for others to accept. Unfortunately, a pilgrim’s journey is his own, and Thomas has the confidence and confidence not to doubt his choices.
Thomas makes the left angry for defying all their expectations and stereotypical conventions. Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1991 to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of liberal activist and African American pioneer Thurgood Marshall. He has refused to take Marshall’s legal path of the “living constitution”. As a graduate of Yale Law School, Thomas eschews the peculiarities of elite culture and prefers to drive a Corvette and vacation in an RV. A bumper sticker “Yale Sucks” is said to be affixed in its chambers. Unlike other judges, he often hires non-Ivy League employees. Thomas, brought to justice by “kinder and gentler” President George HW Bush, has become the justice that advocates uncompromising originalism most. Once a teenage fan of Malcolm X, Thomas had a revelation when exposed to Thomas Sowell’s scholarship and the founders’ writings. He’s resolutely conservative now.
Thomas thinks for himself. He is known for staring briefly at the decision and putting the constitutional text over incorrect legal interpretations. Unlike Chief Justice John Roberts, Thomas doesn’t care about the response from the New York Times and Washington Post. Thomas is immune to the so-called “greenhouse effect”. At just 43 years of age when he was tried, he could easily break William O. Douglas’ record of 36 years in court.
For all these things the Left hates Thomas with consuming passion and has expressed its hostility with hideous, hateful slurs and surnames – “Token”, “Uncle Tom”, “Uncle Clarence”, “Hausnger”, “Lawn” for the jockey extreme rights ”, depictions of him, his shoes, etc. shine – that would rightly be called racist if it is directed at a conventional (ie non-conservative) black public figure. At the 1991 Senate confirmation hearing by Thomas, Alabama Senator Howell Heflin called him a “riddle”. What Heflin may have been referring to, and causing the left’s unease, is that blacks “should be reconciled with the left wing of the Democratic Party” and must under no circumstances be “conservative Republicans”. Being black is a monolithic archetype in the view of the left. A deviation is not permitted. Thomas’ opposition to race-based positive action is viewed by the Civil Rights Institute as particularly heretical.
The complicated life experience of Thomas makes the rigid model of the left of “authentic blackness” risky. He accepts all insults and remains good-natured, easy-going, genuinely friendly, and humble. Thomas is generally revered among the staff at the farm. On a personal level, Thomas is very personable, which is evident in Pack’s documentary. A large part of Created Equal consists of Thomas speaking directly into the camera. His warm demeanor is evident in his disarming demeanor and roaring laughter.
Thomas’ story is full of drama. His odyssey from an impoverished, Gullah / Geechee-speaking childhood in Pin Point, Georgia, during the Jim Crow era to law school in New Haven; from serving in the Missouri Attorney General’s office (under then AG John Danforth) to chairing the US Equal Opportunities Commission under President Ronald Reagan; From a brief tenure on the DC Circuit (occupation of the vacant seat by Robert Bork) to the 106th Supreme Court Justice after a close (52-48) confirmation by the Senate is a fascinating tale.
Thomas’s journey is all the more remarkable when one takes into account his fatherless upbringing; be raised by his strict but illiterate grandparents; the sympathetic care of Catholic nuns at his separate parish school, where he was a devoted altar boy; his youthful desire to study for the priesthood; his disillusionment as the only black student in a Catholic seminary; his radicalization while attending Holy Cross College in the turbulent 1960s (where he became active in the Black Power movement and protested against Angela Davis); and its eventual discovery – and conversion into – conservative ideas.
Thomas’s journey was eventful and sometimes fraught with danger. At various points in his life he was pious and incredulous, angry and joyful, bitter and grateful, Democrat and Republican, lived in anonymity and as a celebrity. The road Thomas traveled had many twists and turns, some detours and even some dead ends. The life story of Thomas is truly an epic story. However, according to his critics, Thomas was – solely because of his breed! – Committed to being a committed liberal and following in the (to be honest, lackluster) footsteps of Thurgood Marshall.
Created Equal is about Clarence Thomas, the man. The viewer is impressed that Thomas is real; There is nothing wrong or wrong with him. He is everyone.
The story of Thomas is known to many. After all, he served in the court for 29 years, longer than any other judiciary that sits now. During this time, he has written over 600 statements that law scholars and law students have carefully examined. His televised confirmation hearings electrified the nation. He is revered in some circles; abused in others. For much of his time at court, Thomas was unfairly overshadowed by his extrovert colleague Antonin Scalia. Yet Thomas’s corps of former employees is just as influential and his views as distinctive as Scalia’s.
Created Equal is not breaking new ground, but it is an entertaining introduction to the most conservative justice of the Court for a mass audience – a broad, but not particularly deep, overview. The interview material of Thomas and his wife is provided with archive video clips and photos, film clips and contemporary news reports that bring the events to life. Pack, the former president of the Claremont Institute, is a veteran filmmaker who, as the founder of Manifold Productions, has written, directed and produced many award-winning documentaries. Created Equal’s production quality is excellent.
It is hoped that Created Equal will attract the long overdue attention of the population and encourage viewers to delve deeper into the background of this staunch lawyer. In 2007 Thomas wrote a bestselling treatise, My Grandfather’s Son, excerpts from which he reads in Created Equal. (Most of the documentary was taken from the book.) Senator John Danforth’s account of Thomas’ controversial affirmation battle of 1991, Resurrection (1994), is one of many books written about Anita Hill’s indictment based on events that allegedly took place 10 years earlier, but that had never been brought up in Thomas’ two subsequent Senate confirmation hearings (as EEOC chair and for the DC Circuit) and the FBI investigation concluded it was unfounded.
Only after the Senate Democrats were unable to “bark” Thomas by discrediting his legal philosophy (especially his interest in natural law) or by discrediting Thomas’ opposition to Roe v. Wade evoked during his five days of testimony, they resorted to the now familiar tactic of covering him with unfounded allegations of sexual misconduct. The Justice Committee, aware of Hill’s unconfirmed (but not publicly disclosed) allegations, had already decided to go to the vote when someone – believed to be a Senate official against Thomas – leaked the confidential material to the press. (This page from the Democrats’ playbook was repeated in 2018 when Christine Blasey Ford showed up at the last minute with unconfirmed charges of decades of sexual misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh, who allegedly appeared in high school.)
The leak caused the Justice Committee to reopen the confirmation hearing from Thomas and hear directly from Hill. Thomas’ fiery rejection and outraged protests against unfair treatment in the verification process have decisively swayed public opinion in his favor. 29 years later, this episode remains one of the most exciting moments in Senate history.
The film’s handling of the 1991 confirmatory negotiations includes a lengthy (and rambling) statement from a fool, Joe Biden, who presided over the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time. (Ron Klain, Biden’s intended chief of staff, acted as the committee’s chief counsel.) Created Equal also includes Thomas’s memorable remarks in response to Hill’s testimony that Thomas alleged sexual harassment
This is a circus. It’s a national shame ….[A]To me, it’s high tech lynching for humble blacks who in any way condescend to thinking for themselves, doing for themselves, having other ideas, and it’s a message that unless that You don’t know an old order, that will happen to you, you will be lynched, destroyed …
Created Equal does not examine Thomas’ legal philosophy in detail and does not address his decisions. It offers a new perspective in a different way. The film is about the man. The best way to understand Thomas as a person is to watch him tell the story of his life in his own words and look straight into the camera. The viewer is impressed that Thomas is real; There is nothing wrong or wrong with him. He is everyone.
Thomas’s journey is not over yet, and fans of rigorous, unwavering originalism should be pleased that he chose the lesser-traveled route. His road has not always been easy, comfortable, or pleasant, and the journey has often been arduous, but Thomas has bravely stood firm in his odyssey. And that made the difference.