Charles Mudede, a writer from Zimbabwe, recently repeated the liberal assertion that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is not “authentically” black, and suggested that the death of his colleague, Antonin Scalia, may free Thomas to support fewer conservative causes. This is not only insulting, it is factually incorrect — Thomas is an intellectual in his own right, and a conservative hero to whites and blacks alike.
Scalia’s death made Mudede recall Ang Lee’s 1999 film Ride with the Devil, set during the Civil War; one of its subplots involves a freedman, Daniel Holt (Jeffrey Wright), who joins a rebel-leaning militia unit called the Bushwhackers. Holt sides with southerners due to his affection for his former master, George Clyde. When Clyde dies, Holt says, “I felt something that day I ain’t never felt…what I felt was free.” Mudede then impugned the dignity of both Scalia and Thomas by connecting them to this story.
I couldn’t help thinking along these lines: Now that Scalia is dead, is there the possibility of Clarence Thomas having a Holt-like experience, a transformative experience? Since his confirmation in 1991, Thomas has mostly been aligned with Scalia, a man who might be loved indirectly by squirrels fattened by climate change, but not by most of black America.
Mudede speculates that, now that Scalia is dead, Thomas could “become a new man (a new black man).” In other words, Thomas might finally become authentically black — and therefore liberal — because he is freed from the allegedly controlling hand of the late arch-conservative justice.
As The New Yorker‘s Jeffrey Toobin explains,
The conventional view of Thomas takes his lack of participation at oral argument as a kind of metaphor. The silent Justice is said to be an intellectual nonentity, a cipher for his similarly conservative colleague, Antonin Scalia. But those who follow the Court closely find this stereotype wrong in every particular. Thomas has long been a favorite of conservatives, but they admire the Justice for how he gives voice to their cause, not just because he votes their way. “Of the nine Justices presently on the Court, he is the one whose opinions I enjoy reading the most,” Steve Calabresi, a professor at the Northwestern University School of Law and a co-founder of the Federalist Society, said. “They are very scholarly, with lots of historical sources, and his views are the most principled, even among the conservatives. He has staked out some bold positions, and then the Court has set out and moved in his direction.”
It may be simply impossible for liberals to understand that an intelligent black man might end up opposing such things as affirmative action — not because he is secretly beholden to whites, but because these leftist policies are bad for everyone.