Sep 18, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – From time immemorial people of colour have been taken advantage of, oppressed, their aspirations devastated by those of stronger means, fairer skins. Yet, sometimes, the worst is what is inflicted by people of colour on their own. Though Guyana has been exceptional in this regard, we look at the United States, and a man of colour, who ascended, and what he inflicts on his own. As this is absorbed, think of how our own Guyanese leaders, people of colour, have linked arms with others, at different times, to keep us down at the bottom.
It is ironic that a black United States Supreme Court Justice should today stand as the embodiment of extreme. Justice, Clarence Thomas, is considered so extreme by court watchers, that the conclusions are he has points to prove, and scores to settle. The man who stands in the shoes of judicial giant Thurgood Marshall now strives to remove one plank after another of the protections that Marshall crafted against the odds, and out of nothing. Among the majority of conservative judges on today’s U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Thomas stands, in telling irony, as the definition of extreme, the extremes that injure his own.
Clarence Thomas is now the longest serving U.S. Supreme Court Justice, with 30 years on this highest judicial tribunal. Whereas, even Chief Justice Roberts would vote with the liberal minority, Justice Thomas is determinedly ahead of the rock-ribbed conservatives, who make up the majority. In one eye-opening opinion Justice Thomas was the lone dissenter in Foster v. Chatman, where there were clearly extremely disturbing evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, namely, seeking “to keep people of colour off the jury” in a Georgia death penalty case (Progressive Pulse, May 24, 2016). Thomas’ stance raised the standard to prevail to a near impossibility.
Thomas has gained a reputation of outdoing even the late Anton Scalia, who was noted for his extreme positions. It is noteworthy that Scalia was a stickler for precedent, if only for stability and some predictability. Thomas, the originalist, is of a different mind. When precedent conflicts with his understandings, precedent has to yield. Even Scalia balked, summing up the difference between his approach and that of Thomas as: “I’m an originalist, but I’m not a nut.”
Thomas is extreme elsewhere. He is for curtailing press freedoms in defiance of the First Amendment; has no problem with any level of campaign contributions. Worse, this African American Justice is against all forms of affirmative action. Still worse, he is for executions, regardless of the form, or the cruelties inherent. Justice Thomas conveniently ignores discrimination in sentencing when Black Americans are involved, the injustices that are, sometimes, obvious.
A reasonable thought is that Justice Thomas, being aware of the stresses on hard-earned minority gains (of which gains he is a beneficiary), would be closer to the centre, rather than the extreme margins. No question that he could do so successfully, without surrendering his conservative convictions. But, it seems that only the hard-edged is the standard of his approaches and outcomes. One has to wonder that if Clarence Thomas was a political leader in a crucial governance role, what kind he would have been. Based on his judicial positions and opinions, it brings fear and disillusionment: a minority who has reached the pinnacle waging war against his own, and so irrationally that his conservative brethren alternately fear him and cheer him. The ones cheering usually have no use for people of lesser standing, those of a different colour, lower status, marginal presence.
As we think of Justice Clarence Thomas, we cannot help thinking of how much of a beacon of light he could have been for his own. Instead, if he had his way, the descendants of black slaves would be sent back to Africa, and immigrant Guyanese returned to Guyana, should such a judicial decision rest in his hands. But, we think more of Guyana and our own leaders, of how they could have been, but are not. Of what they can do, but to whose tune they dance, and whose will they bow. Like Justice Thomas, Guyanese leaders are on top; and, given their handiwork here, Guyanese go down. Their masters must be pleased.
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