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Jewish World Review /June 12, 1998 / 18 Sivan, 5758

Larry Elder

Larry Elder Guess who's not coming to dinner

FOR ITS JULY LUNCHEON in Memphis, Tenn., the black National Bar Association invites Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to speak.

But wait! The judicial branch of the association later votes 12-3 to rescind the invitation. A member tells the Richmond, Va., Time
Victim of racism...by Blacks?
s-Dispatch that the association revoked the offer. But not so fast! The black judge who made the invitation later states that the offer still stands, despite the judicial panel's lopsided "no" vote. Could Judge Thomas' travel agent sue for whiplash?

The leader of the association's "Dump Thomas" movement, former Appellate Judge Leon Higgenbotham, once attacked Clarence Thomas. Why? Well, according to Higgenbotham, Thomas has forgotten how to "think black." Poor Justice Thomas. The guy probably thinks his job requires him to, you know, interpret the Constitution -- not to "think black." So, must Justice Sandra Day O'Connor "think woman"? And Ruth Bader Ginsburg "think Jewish woman"? And Antonin Scalia "think Italian man"?

Once former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, running against a black opponent, urged voters to "vote white." Funny, some thought that remark racist.

Recently, the new chairman of the NAACP, Julian Bond, urged the organization to rise up and confront the "new racists." (No names named.)

Bond suggested that the term "new racist" includes certain blacks. "We have long heard these arguments from white racists," he said. "They are joined today by black self-haters and apologists, too. They are colorblind, all right -- blind to the consequences of being the wrong color in America today." Got that? A black who opposes affirmative action "self-hates."

USA Today attributes the association's problem with Thomas to the justice's anti-affirmative action position and "other conservative views." Oh, yeah? Like what? Most people, including black lawyers, probably couldn't name a Thomas point of view they find offensive, short of his "no" on affirmative action. So let's stop kidding. Thomas' crime remains that he opposes race-based preferences. But the Nation of Islam's Minister Louis Farrakhan opposes affirmative action. Does he self-hate? And nearly one in three California black voters -- six times the percentage who voted for Dole in '96 -- supported Proposition 209 to outlaw race- and gender-based preferences. A conspiracy of self-haters?

And what about moderate-to-liberal whites like USC law professor Susan Estrich, Michael Dukakis' presidential campaign manager? She, too, opposes race-based preferences. So, too, does the head of the Florida branch of the ACLU, who recently wrote an article in opposition. "New racists," perhaps?

By the way, should a white defendant fear standing before a black judge who also belongs to the National Bar Association? After all, if a judge perceives the defendant as an angry, white male -- a likely affirmative-action-opposing conservative -- should the defendant trust the judge to rule fairly, to give him, upon conviction, a just sentence? Should the defense counsel automatically move for recusal on the grounds of judicial bias?

When you call someone "judge," what comes to mind? Fairness, impartiality, objectivity. Yet these judges deny Clarence Thomas an opportunity to even speak. Is he radioactive? What, occupying the same room with Thomas is like having a lawn picnic at Chernobyl? Perhaps they're afraid Thomas might change their minds.

During the 1996 election campaign, NAACP Executive Director Kweisi Mfume invited anti-affirmative action presidential candidate Bob Dole to speak. Dole refused. So Mfume blasted him, "I do not believe it is important whether Bob Dole thinks I'm his friend or not but rather what we can do to help our country. Our hope was that the former senator would make himself available to our membership here in Charlotte in order to hear his vision for America."

What about Thomas' vision for America? Ronald Reagan sat down with Mikhail Gorbachev, the he ad of a nation Reagan once called "the evil empire." The head of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, sat down with England's Prime Minister Tony Blair. Nelson Mandela, imprisoned in South Africa for 27 years, sat down with his former captors. The pope visited Cuba, and Menachem Begin shook hands with Yasser Arafat. Hell, even Dean Martin reconciled with Jerry Lewis.

But Clarence Thomas cannot address a group of black lawyers.

The Thomas-battering is tactically brain-dead. Presumably, the National Bar Association wants Thomas to reconsider his position on affirmative action. Will calling him a "Negro Dr. Kevorkian," as he was by a member of the Black Congressional Caucus, do the trick? Will a black magazine cover labeling him "Uncle Thomas -- Lawn Jockey to the Far Right" make friends and influence enemies? Remember, Thomas, a young man, enjoys lifetime tenure.

Former Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, an ex-Ku Klux Klan member, evolved into one of the staunchest liberals in Supreme Court history. And a disappointed President Dwight Eisenhower called his appointment of civil rights crusading Chief Justice Earl Warren a "damn-fool" mistake. Justices can fool you.

But not, apparently, a "new racist."


6/5/98: What now, NOW?
5/29/98:What's next, ‘burger busters'?
5/21/98: 'Stuff' happens
5/18/98: This just in
5/11/98: Stepping up
4/30/98: Who's faking whom?
4/16/98:To spank or not to spank

©1998, Laurence A. Elder