A re­minder about a for­got­ten hero

The Smith­so­nian has left out Jus­tice Clarence Thomas

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By R. Em­mett Tyrrell Jr. R. Em­mett Tyrrell Jr. is edi­tor in chief of The Amer­i­can Spec­ta­tor. He is author of “The Death of Lib­er­al­ism,” pub­lished by Thomas Nel­son Inc.

Re­cently, a voice of the con­ser­va­tive me­dia did what it is sup­posed to do, to wit: tell the rest of the story. The main­stream me­dia tells Amer­ica only part of the story. They tell us how they per­ceive the world and leave it at that. This is why so much of re­cent Amer­i­can jour­nal­ism — and in­deed his­tory — is so un­sat­is­fac­tory to sen­tient ob­servers. Some­thing seems to be left out. Jour­nal­ism and his­tory are told from the left’s point of view ex­clu­sively, and those of us who do not share the left’s point of view get the feel­ing that some­thing is miss­ing.

So raise a toast to The Wash­ing­ton Times — known in my cir­cle as the Good Times — for telling the rest of the story. It did so again a few weeks back when a re­porter from The Times, Brad­ford Richard­son, re­ported that the re­cently opened Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture has hardly a word about the life of Jus­tice Clarence Thomas in it. Jus­tice Thur­good Mar­shall, the Supreme Court’s first black jus­tice, is men­tioned as is his role as an at­tor­ney in Brown v. Board of Ed­u­ca­tion of Topeka, the ground­break­ing 1954 case that trig­gered de­seg­re­ga­tion in schools across Amer­ica. But the life of Jus­tice Thomas, the court’s sec­ond black and the first black to plot a con­ser­va­tive course, is not men­tioned at all, save for one dis­turb­ing in­stance.

Jus­tice Thomas’ name comes up in the mu­seum’s dis­play con­cern­ing the story of Anita Hill, the black lawyer who claimed she was sex­u­ally ha­rassed by him while both worked at the Equal Em­ploy­ment Op­por­tu­nity Com­mis­sion back in the 1980s. Ap­par­ently, she was not be­lieved by the ma­jor­ity of the Se­nate be­cause Jus­tice Thomas won con­fir­ma­tion and is now in his 25th year as one of the court’s con­ser­va­tive stal­warts. None­the­less, the mu­seum has on dis­play a but­ton read­ing “I Be­lieve Anita Hill.” There is no pro-Thomas but­ton or any pro-Thomas mem­o­ra­bilia.

When asked about this im­bal­ance, pit­ting a dis­grun­tled for­mer em­ployee against the sec­ond black to be raised to the court, a spokesper­son for the mu­seum said, “We do not have plans to cre­ate an ex­hi­bi­tion on Jus­tice Clarence Thomas or any Supreme Court jus­tice as part of the mu­seum’s ex­hi­bi­tions.” She went on to say, “The mu­seum’s ex­hi­bi­tions are based on themes, not in­di­vid­u­als.”

You see, the spread­ing civil rights move­ment of the post-World War II pe­riod that led to Jus­tice Thomas and be­fore him Jus­tice Mar­shall be­ing nom­i­nated to the court was part of a theme. The theme in­cluded Anita Hill’s at­tempt to block Jus­tice Thomas’ nom­i­na­tion, along with Mar­shall’s role in Brown v. Board of Ed­u­ca­tion. You will have to go down to the Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture to learn what the rest of the theme in­cludes. It could in­clude al­most any­thing (The Wash­ing­ton Times men­tions the Black Pan­thers and the re­cent Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment), but it does not in­clude the two jus­tices’ el­e­va­tion to the court. I think it is part of the on­go­ing theme of the Amer­i­can left’s sup­posed dom­i­na­tion of his­tory. That is to say, the left is rep­re­sented by heroes, the right is rep­re­sented by flawed hu­man­ity. In truth, Jus­tice Thomas is the hero.

Born in poverty, raised by a grand­fa­ther who de­serves es­pe­cial praise, and climb­ing steadily as an in­de­pen­dent thinker, Jus­tice Thomas has achieved about all one could ever ex­pect of a cit­i­zen in a free so­ci­ety. His le­gal opin­ions show in­tel­li­gence, in­de­pen­dence, prin­ci­ple and orig­i­nal­ity. All are on dis­play in his 2005 dis­sent, Kelo v. City of New Lon­don. In that case the court’s ma­jor­ity ig­nored the mean­ing of the Con­sti­tu­tion and granted a lo­cal gov­ern­ment the right to seize an en­tire neigh­bor­hood for pri­vate de­vel­op­ment de­spite the fact that the Fifth Amend­ment grants the gov­ern­ment au­thor­ity to take pri­vate prop­erty only for “public use.” Jus­tice Thomas said no. He has also writ­ten about his life from his ear­li­est years in rus­tic Pin Point, Ga., to our na­tion’s cap­i­tal in a mov­ing mem­oir, “My Grand­fa­ther’s Son.” It is one of the finest me­moirs to come out of his gen­er­a­tion. That book in it­self should earn him a place in the Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture.

Is there any­thing that can be done to re­dress this politi­ciza­tion of the Amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence? Well, I just hap­pen to have in my hands a list of the board mem­bers at the Smith­so­nian, which over­sees the Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture, and do you know who serves the Smith­so­nian board as its chan­cel­lor? That would be the Chief Jus­tice of the Supreme Court him­self, John G. Roberts Jr. Surely, Chief Jus­tice Roberts could play a role in rec­og­niz­ing the achieve­ments of Jus­tice Thomas.


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