Clarence Thomas

I often had occasion to remind myself in years to come that self-interest isn't a principle- it's just self-interest.

Clarence Thomas (b. June 23, 1948) is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He is the second African-American to serve on the nation's highest court.

My Grandfather's Son (2008)Edit

  • For a time we wondered why our real father didn't come and rescue us, but we had long since accepted our fate by the time we finally met him.
    • Page 12
  • Long after the fact, it occurred to me that this was a metaphor for life- blisters come before calluses, vulnerability before maturity- but not even the thickest of skins could have spared us the lash of Daddy's tongue.
    • Pages 25-26
  • I began to suspect that Daddy had been right all along: the only hope I had of changing the world was to change myself first.
    • Page 60
  • The black people I knew came from different places and backgrounds- social, economic, even ethnic- yet the color of our skin was somehow supposed to make us identical in spite of our differences. I didn't buy it. Of course we had all experienced racism in one way or another, but did that mean that we had to think alike?
    • Page 62
  • I often had occasion to remind myself in years to come that self-interest isn't a principle- it's just self-interest.
    • Page 101
I had sworn to administer justice "faithfully and impartially." To do otherwise would be to violate my oath. That meant I had no business of imposing my personal views on the country. Nor did I have the slightest intention of doing so.
  • The popular political answers of the day, I saw, had hardened into dogma, making anyone who questioned them a heretic. Having turned my back on religion, I saw no reason to accept mere political opinions as gospel truth. Years later these same dogmatists would walk away from the wreckage of their failed policies, like children tossing aside a broken toy. But the victims they left behind were real people- my people.
    • Page 105
  • All I cared about was finding answers, no matter who had them. When, later on, I began to associate with conservatives, it was because their ideas were closer to mine than liberals' ideas, not because I saw myself as one of them. I'd already noticed that it was liberals, not conservatives, who were most likely to condescend to blacks, but I assumed, like the good radical I once was, that liberals and conservatives were simply two different breeds of snake, one stealthy, the other openly hostile.
    • Pages 107-108
  • How often had he longed to hold us, hug us, grant our every wish, but held himself back for fear of letting us see his vulnerability, believing as he did that real love demanded not affection but discipline?
    • Page 112
  • Even then, though, I cared about people, not theories. I had no wish to spin individual cases into some grandiose, ideologically driven legal theory. I no longer believed in utopian solutions, or the cynical politicians who used them to sucker voters, claiming to care about the poor while actually exploiting them. Not only was I sure that such solutions were doomed to failure, but I also feared that once they failed, the resulting disillusionment would make matters even worse. Yet it was taken for granted in the seventies that the purveyors of these elaborate nostrums were doing the right thing, and anyone who dared to challenge their effectiveness was hooted down. That prospect intimidated me, especially when it came to racial matters.
    • Page 115
  • I knew that until I was ready to tell the truth as I saw it, I was no better than a politician- but I didn't know whether I would ever be brave enough to break ranks and speak my mind.
    • Page 116
I could only choose between being an outcast and being dishonest.
  • I had manufactured artificial goals as a means of motivating myself, using my longing for money, cars, and other material possessions to create a false sense of purpose. They had worked on me like spoonfuls of sugar- a jolt of energy that soon faded, leaving behind the pangs of a deeper hunger. I had cut myself off from the transcendent hope of religion, and now a vast and frightening expanse of uncertainty lay before me.
    • Pages 116-117
  • I could feel the golden handcuffs of a comfortable but unfulfilling life snapping shut on my wrists.
    • Page 119
  • I could only choose between being an outcast and being dishonest.
    • Page 133
  • An education is meaningless unless it equips students to have a better life.
    • Page 142
  • I was seized with a guilt that I knew would never leave me, and I knew I didn't deserve to be free of it. I hadn't quite reached the end of my rope, but I was close enough.
    • Page 145
As for the matter of my judicial philosophy, I didn't have one- and didn't want one. A philosophy that is imposed from without instead of arising organically from day-to-day engagement with the law isn't worth having. Such a philosophy runs the risk of becoming an ideology, and I'd spent much of my adult life shying away from abstract ideological theories that served only to obscure the reality of life as it's lived.
  • Then, as always, I felt morally obligated to advocate our official position, even when it conflicted with my personal views.
    • Page 177
  • I recalled the ants I had watched as a child on the farm, building their hills one grain of sand at a time, only to have them senselessly destroyed in an instant by a passing foot. I'd pieced my life together the same way, slowly and agonizingly. Would it, too, be kicked callously into dust?
    • Page 214
  • The important thing was that I had never behaved inappropriately toward any woman, and I had no intention of letting my enemies hang that age-old charge of sexual impropriety around my neck. Those who wished only to exploit my past failings, not forgive them, would get no help from me.
    • Page 229
  • As for the matter of my judicial philosophy, I didn't have one- and didn't want one. A philosophy that is imposed from without instead of arising organically from day-to-day engagement with the law isn't worth having. Such a philosophy runs the risk of becoming an ideology, and I'd spent much of my adult life shying away from abstract ideological theories that served only to obscure the reality of life as it's lived.
    • Page 238
  • I had sworn to administer justice "faithfully and impartially." To do otherwise would be to violate my oath. That meant I had no business of imposing my personal views on the country. Nor did I have the slightest intention of doing so.
    • Page 238
  • Perhaps the fires through which I had passed would have a purifying effect on me, just as a blast furnace burns the impurities out of steel.
    • Page 279
  • Thanks to God's direct intervention, I had risen phoenixlike from the ashes of self-pity and despair, and though my wounds were still raw, I trusted that in time they, too, would heal.
    • Page 282

QuotesEdit

  • "[My] approach recognizes the basic principle of a written Constitution. We "the people" adopted a written Constitution precisely because it has a fixed meaning, a meaning that does not change. Otherwise we would have adopted the British approach of an unwritten, evolving constitution. Aside from amendment according to Article V, the Constitution’s meaning cannot be updated, or changed, or altered by the Supreme Court, the Congress, or the President. Of course, even when strictly interpreted as I believe it should be, the Constitution remains a modern, "breathing" document as some like to call it, in the sense that the Court is constantly required to interpret how its provisions apply to the Constitutional questions of modern life. Nevertheless, strict interpretation must never surrender to the understandably attractive impulse towards creative but unwarranted alterations of first principles." — Speech to the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, February 2, 2001
  • "[I disagree] that there is a racial paternalism exception to the principle of equal protection. I believe that there is a 'moral [and] constitutional equivalence,' between laws designed to subjugate a race and those that distribute benefits on the basis of race in order to foster some current notion of equality. Government cannot make us equal; it can only recognize, respect, and protect us as equal before the law." (concurring in Adarand v. Pena, 515 U.S. 200 (1995))
  • "To define each of us by our race is nothing short of a denial of our humanity." [1]
  • "I Am a Man, a Black Man, an American" [2]
  • "[I claim] my right to think for myself, to refuse to have my ideas assigned to me as though I was an intellectual slave because I'm black." [3]
  • "A white person is free to think whatever they want to think, but a black person has to think a certain way. Why do you think I get in so much controversy? People have a model of what they think a black person should think." — Justice Thomas to Diane Brady, 2007. [4]
  • "Something has gone seriously awry with this Court's interpretation of the Constitution." (dissenting Kelo v. New London, [5])

External linksEdit

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Last modified on 12 April 2013, at 14:19