Category Archives: Segregation

Every black progressive should watch PBS’s Clarence Thomas bio

Dear @cthagod, now that you’ve interviewed Joe Biden, I suggest that you learn about Clarence Thomas to clarify your thinking about blacks and Democrats.

In the past two days, two things collided in my brain. The first was the interview that Charlamagne tha God did with Joe Biden, from which emerged Joe’s epic gaffe telling blacks that they’re black only if they vote for him. The second was Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words, which I believe is still available for viewing for another week.

You’ve all heard about Biden’s utterly tone-deaf statement, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” There’s no doubt in my mind that Joe thought he was funny. He did not intend to be either offensive or racist. Biden either thought he was making a “no true Scotsman” joke, or he believed that his lifetime of race-based politics makes him some sort of honorary African-American. If he thinks the latter, he also probably thinks he can use the “n” word too, which is a scary thought, especially since incipient dementia has a way of leeching away a person’s social controls.

That Joe was stupid and offensive was the least interesting thing to me about the interview. Charlamagne is a decent interviewer. He was polite, but he called Biden out on the things that concerned Charlamagne and his audience. He then sat back and just let Biden talk. The only problem is that I don’t believe Charlamagne knew quite how many lies or – let’s be kind – distortions Joe included in his wandering narrative.

He distorted his record on the coronavirus response. He would have people believe that he handled things better than Trump did. His January 27 article, though, did not have any useful concrete statements. Instead, he ultimately insisted that America needs to work with (and, of course, fund) the international community. Biden also conflated two different things: A runaway virus in the only country in the world that is as globally connected, if not more globally connected, than America, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, a scary disease in a thankfully small and quarantinable corner of West Africa.

On January 31, when Trump ignored the WHO’s continued attempts to downplay the Wuhan virus and closed our borders to China, Joe promptly lambasted Trump as hysterical and xenophobic. Biden then did nothing concrete until mid-March, when he finally released his plan.

Aside from echoing much that Trump had already done, the plan was the equivalent of Anne Elk’s theory about dinosaurs, for what Biden basically promised was to create an infrastructure that would create a plan.

Having lied, er, distorted his record, Biden tripped lightly over to systemic racism. He noted (accurately) that blacks are harder hit by the Wuhan virus. Doing so ignored the fact that blacks are concentrated in Democrat-run urban areas, which have been hit harder than most places anyway.

This is especially true for New York, where both de Blasio and Cuomo continued to let packed subway trains run. While more affluent whites were working from or sheltering at home, less affluent blacks were packed into underground moving Petri dishes. That’s not on Trump.

Blacks also have more risk factors for dying from the Wuhan virus, such as obesity and the diseases of obesity – Type II diabetes and heart disease. What no one will admit is that, just as the Japanese as a culture eat that super-healthy diet that has them routinely living into their 90s, blacks in America eat traditional Southern food, much of it a fusion of African and American cuisine.

Although Southern food is some of the most delicious food on planet earth, it’s also some of the least healthy. I have heartburn for days after eating a Southern meal. Sure, you can blame poverty, but culture and food choices matter too.

And then there’s Vitamin D. More and more studies are showing that Vitamin D is critical to people’s immune function. Elderly people and blacks are chronically low on Vitamin D.

Blacks also metabolize Vitamin D differently, because they can draw from it a subset of the vitamin that helps build strong bones. This does not mean, however, that this same vitamin subset helps black people’s immune systems.

Indeed, if they are other deficient in Vitamin D, that may also help explain the problems of obesity, Type II diabetes, and heart disease. Skin pigmentation meant to filter out the African sun beating down on people who lived outdoors for tens of thousands of years may not serve people well in northern climates or living life indoors.

Still, as far as Biden is concerned, the black mortality rate is all Trump’s fault because . . . systemic racism.

And that’s where I want to jump from talking about Biden and get to Charlamagne tha God and Clarence Thomas.

Charlamagne tha God didn’t start life out as a hip talk show host. Instead, he was born Lenard Larry McKelvey in 1978, just outside of Charleston (i.e., coastal-ish South Carolina). Clarence Thomas was born in 1948, in truly coastal Pin Point, Georgia, before moving as a child to Savannah. The two men, therefore, were separated by thirty years and about 120 miles. Those 120 miles don’t make a big difference, but the thirty years sure do.

In the 1990s, when I was in my thirties and a Democrat, Thomas was the black sellout who did mean things to Anita Hill. Today, I’m in my 50s and a conservative. Until this afternoon, all I knew about Clarence Thomas was that he is a strict constructionist and originalist on the Supreme Court whose writing and thinking I deeply admire. He is, I believe, the unsung intellectual genius on the court.

What changed this afternoon was that I watched that PBS special about Thomas. Everything in it was new to me because I had not read My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir, Thomas’s autobiography. Watching the show was a revelation. Thomas has lived an extraordinary life.

Clarence Thomas was born into rural poverty in the Jim Crow south. His first language was Gullah, a dialect unique to coastal South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Shortly after Thomas was born, his father left, so his mother was raising three children on her own. She eventually relocated with her two younger children (Thomas and his younger brother) to Savannah. They lived in segregated squalor that modern Americans cannot even imagine.

Eventually, Thomas’s grandparents stepped in, taking him and his brother into their clean, shiny, new home. His grandfather was a semi-literate, incredibly hard-working, God-fearing martinet. During the school year, the boys attended a primarily black parochial school where the Irish nuns made it clear that the black children under their care were all children of God. During the summer, their grandfather had the boys working on an old-fashioned family farm, one without any modern farm implements. Thomas’s grandfather infused his life with meaning, discipline, and faith.

At sixteen, Thomas decided he had a calling and entered a local seminary. His grandfather told him that, having made this choice, Thomas must stick it out. If Thomas didn’t become a priest, said his grandfather, he would be on his own, without his family’s support.

After two years there, Thomas heard a fellow seminarian celebrate Martin Luther King’s assassination. Disgusted, Thomas turned his back on becoming a priest and on God. His grandfather, terribly disappointed, kicked him out, telling Thomas that, having made a man’s decision, he was now responsible for himself.

The only lifeline Thomas had was that he had been admitted to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Because Thomas had grown up in segregation and lived through the traumas of MLK’s death, Robert Kennedy’s death, and the hideously ugly fights about school segregation, he was deeply disenchanted with America. He became a hardcore leftist and instantly fell in with the school’s black student movement, which was a leftist, indeed, communist movement. So involved was Thomas that he helped found the Black Students Union there.

What changed Thomas was the night he went to Boston to participate in protests. He was so appalled by the unbridled violence of the night (and, he suggests, by what he did), that he prayed for the first time in two years. He renounced violence and hatred, and put his life on a new track.

Thomas had always been interested in the law, which he understood controlled the world and controlled blacks. As I argued in an older post, the problem in the South was the law as laid down by the government:

Civil rights mean small government, with the government limited primarily (although not entirely) to protecting citizens from itself.

Martin Luther King understood this.  The Civil Rights movement was a stand against overt government encroachment on the rights of black people.  The Southern States, ignoring the Declaration’s acknowledgment that all meninherently possessed civil rights, used the government as a weapon against the black people within its borders.  The real problem blacks faced wasn’t that their fellow white citizens behaved hostilely, and even murderously, towards them.  Had the government fulfilled its policing responsibilities and stepped forward to protect those citizens, Jim Crow would have been a short-lived phenomenon.  The real problem was that Southern government itself encroached on citizens’ freedom.

It was Southern government that legislatively segregated schools, segregated housing, segregated business establishments, segregated marriages and enacted barriers between blacks and ballots.  It was Southern government that was a “Form of Government [that had become] destructive of these ends [life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for black people],” making it the civil  “Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

I figured the above out through aging and brute intellectual work. Thomas figured it out because he lived it. He realized that some people are good and some are jerks, but that it’s the government, acting through the laws it enacts, that forced upon blacks the rules that made their lives miserable. With this belief, and with good grades, Thomas chose to go to Yale Law School.

I’ll skip over the middle parts, which you know: After Yale, Thomas finally got a job when a Republican politician, John Danforth, hired him to work in Missouri. He ended up in Reagan’s EEOC, became a respected judge, and got nominated for the Supreme Court. (The documentary covers all this; I’m the one skipping it.)

The documentary covers quite well that disgraceful episode in America’s political life. As I said, back then, I was too stupid to understand. I got all my news from NPR, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The New Republic. I was pro-abortion and thought it was splendid that the Democrats were making abortion a litmus test for the Supreme Court and that Anita Hill conveniently emerged to take out a pro-Life black man.

I am only grateful that I have lived long enough and become wise enough to understand the terrible thing that the Democrats – led by Joe Biden and Teddy “Kopechne killer” Kennedy – did to a conservative black man. (Thomas’s only comment about Biden was that then, as now, Biden made no sense.) I’m also, as I said, wise enough to know that Thomas will go down in history as one of America’s greatest legal minds.

So let’s go back to where I started, to Charlamagne tha God and Clarence Thomas. The younger man grew up geographically near to Thomas, but in a world that wasn’t just thirty years away, it was a universe away. I don’t doubt that Charlamagne’s experiences as a black man in modern America were troubled. He hints that he had run-ins with the law before he found his way.

Having said that, Charlamagne did not, could not, experience the degradation that was visited upon Clarence Thomas, a black man raised in a grotesquely racist, segregated community; a black man who was brilliant and graduated from America’s top law school, only to find himself unemployed; and a black man whom Democrats attacked by pinning on him one of the oldest racist tropes, which is that black men were unable to control their animal sexuality.

So here’s my question for Charlamagne: Is it possible that Clarence Thomas’s belief in the wisdom of the Founders — imperfect men who nevertheless had a brilliant vision — is of more worth than your ingrained support for the Democrat Party and progressive politics? And is it possible that Clarence Thomas’s belief in the individual rather than in divisive labels and powerful government entities is at least worth your consideration?

I urge you to watch the PBS show (with “you” being Charlamagne and everyone else who reads this) and to think long and hard about how Thomas, slowly and very painfully, reached his conclusions about conservativism. You might find that you view differently how the Democrat party uses and abuses American blacks, so much so that Biden thinks it’s funny to tell blacks who they are for political purposes.