October 01, 2007

Justice Thomas Thinks Very Little of White Folks

Under affirmative action, Thomas says, whites will forever believe blacks enroll in top schools or hold good jobs only because the institutions lowered their standards to accept them - regardless of whatever qualifications an individual may actually have. The assumption is that blacks, Thomas says, are not and cannot be as good as whites.

So is he projecting, or something - or are his views of white people as deeply negative as the grudges he holds against the senators who voted against him?

Posted by armand at October 1, 2007 01:05 PM | TrackBack | Posted to Law and the Courts


I think his generalization is overbroad and probably unwarranted. But it's absurd to suggest that the attitude he talks about isn't real, and fairly widespread. Of course it is. I've seen it over and over again.

Posted by: jacflash at October 1, 2007 01:17 PM | PERMALINK

I've seen it before too. But to say that all white people think this way is absurd (and rather offensive). And to suggest, as this seems to, that the white people who think this way might think differently if affirmative action didn't exist is naive.

Posted by: Armand at October 1, 2007 02:08 PM | PERMALINK

yeah, and under legacy admissions, folks who earned their way into prestigious (or not so prestigious) institutions (but worked for their seats at the table, in any event, is the point) will always harbor secret suspicions, or outright resentful certainties, that certain people with connections are not as good as the hard workers.

i agree with jacflash and armand that some people will so conclude, but the more rational people in an ordinary situation will come to one of two conclusions:

a) affirmative action, as it aims to do, recognizes the limitations of the metrics most commonly used to sort people out early in life in accounting for socioeconomic differences and differences of opportunity, and thus, with the odd exception (no different than any other case), will find the diamond in the rough, the person who's slightly lower scores respect far greater potential given unfortunate circumstances of upbringing, class, etc.

b) even if affirmative action all too often brings people into organizations or institutions who really have no business being there (and i must confess, the evidence from elite law schools is striking that affirmative action students tend to be overmatched, though the studies also tend to be somewhat underdetermined), one cannot assume, without being privy to a particular individual's credentials and references, etc., that any particular person doesn't deserve whatever spot we're talking about, forcing that person to judge the person based on personal experience from zero.

there are irrational people on all sides of every debate. thomas seems to be ascribing to all of us traits that are, at root, irrational (and that have analogies black and white, academic and professional, etc. etc.). it's a strawman.

i'm happy at all the opportunites justice thomas was afforded. by all accounts, he's the person for whom affirmative action was fashioned, a hard-working person who deserves almost everything he got. whether he was qualified to be a supreme court justice at the time of his appointment, to me remains in question. i think he was of a harriet meiers pedigree -- smart, lawyer, and right place right time. lots of people were more qualified than he for the job, and for the D.C. Circuit job he held (for all of about two weeks) before his elevation to the Court.

anyway, all this publicity aroused by his book . . . from what i'm hearing about the book, it sounds awfully impetuous and defensive. i've actually come to harbor a certain begrudging respect for his jurisprudence (for one thing, he runs circles around Scalia in matters of doctrinal consistency, and consistency is better than righteousness any day for lawyers and people who try to follow the law), but i really have no interest in what makes him tick. he seems to me an unhappy, self-martyring man, and self-pity is especially unseemly in people who've reached the absolute pinnacle of their profession.

Posted by: moon at October 1, 2007 05:35 PM | PERMALINK

Irrelevant data point: I personally knew three rich-white-boy legacy kids who failed out of Cornell. Like, out-out, which actually takes some doing.

Posted by: jacflash at October 1, 2007 06:44 PM | PERMALINK
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