Saturday, April 23, 2016

Book Review: Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas

By Wendy Long

Supreme Discomfort's snide, breathless tone may be gathered from tabloid excesses like this: "Even in his cloistered, rarefied world as a member of the most important judicial body in existence, Thomas will always be black and he knows it." Such statements are embarrassing, not only for two black journalists, but particularly when held up against the depth and nuance expressed in My Grandfather's Son.

Because the authors of Supreme Discomfort are so wedded to their "Uncle Tom" thesis, they latch onto the liberal establishment line that although Thomas was the beneficiary of affirmative action all his life, now that he's climbed to the top of the heap he has pulled up the rope behind him, and would deny the same advantage to other blacks. Yet they acknowledge that "race did not appear to play a role in Thomas's acceptance to Holy Cross" and that "Yale officials cannot say whether Thomas would have been admitted to the prestigious law school without affirmative action" because by the time he was admitted, the university had refined its affirmative action efforts, admitting minority applicants only if it believed they could do the work and thrive at Yale. Interestingly, this goes precisely to Thomas's criticism of affirmative action as it came to be practiced more broadly in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s: that it resulted in minority students being accepted into schools and environments where they could not thrive, just in order to satisfy grand theories about minority admissions or to provide a "diverse" environment that would somehow enhance the white folks' experience, irrespective of the effect it would have on the minority students.

Read the full review HERE.