- - Monday, February 27, 2023

After Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican, delivered the GOP response to President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress in 2021, “Uncle Tim” began trending on Twitter. “Uncle Tim” is a play on the racial epithet “Uncle Tom.” Now, like clockwork, another accomplished Black man has been smeared as a race traitor.

In a speech on the floor of the Georgia Senate, Democrat Emanuel Jones labeled Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas an “Uncle Tom” and as “someone betraying his own community,” whose “policies seek to subvert the achievements and accomplishments of people of color,” and that “people of non-color” are incapable of understanding it all.

Respectfully, I dissent.

Mr. Jones’ tirade was motivated by his opposition to legislation that would place a statue of Mr. Thomas at the Georgia Capitol. Thankfully, the legislation he opposed was passed — albeit on what should be viewed as an embarrassingly petty party-line vote of 32-20 with Democrats unanimously opposed — but why the rank partisan hostility? One could do worse than to honor this extraordinary Georgia native son.

Mr. Thomas was born dirt poor outside of Savannah in the Jim Crow era. After learning English as a second language, he went on to build one of the most remarkable careers in American history. Of course, this career has culminated in his being one of the most influential and longest-serving jurists on our highest court, with a legendary reputation for humility, warmth and kindness.

A portrait of this exceptional American is masterfully painted in the film ‘Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words.” After being removed from Amazon during Black History Month in 2021 without warning or explanation, the documentary is once again available to watch. It is well worth your time to learn more about the man.

Or perhaps visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Fortunately, it now has an exhibit on the second Black Supreme Court justice after going its first year of operation without it.

Sensing a pattern?

The apoplexy exhibited when accomplished Black Americans express conservative views is not about race betrayal at all. It is about leftist intellectual conformity and control.

Mr. Thomas, in particular, has been a thorn in the side of left-wing authoritarians, and they have tried time and again to cancel him and to distort his image in the public. The impending cause celebre for liberal rage against Mr. Thomas is two cases pending in the Supreme Court.

In June, the Supreme Court is expected to release decisions in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and SFFA v. University of North Carolina. The cases present the question of whether racial favoritism in college admissions decisions is consistent with the Constitution and federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race. To the great dismay of many on the left, Mr. Thomas has been steadfast for decades on the issue commonly referred to as affirmative action.

In Grutter v. Bollinger, the 2003 case that sanctioned the use of racial preferences in admissions for the supposed benefits of campus diversity, Mr. Thomas respectfully dissented. Contrary to Sen. Jones’ caricature of Mr. Thomas as an oppressor of Black people, the Supreme Court justice channeled the spirit of Frederick Douglass, writing, “I believe Blacks can achieve in every avenue of American life.”

He went on to express some shared sympathy with affirmative action supporters because he “wish[es] to see all students succeed whatever their color,” but that there are a multitude of harms done to all involved in this racial experimentation, including the “test subjects” themselves. Ultimately, he concluded, racial preferences violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Indeed, “[t]he Constitution abhors classifications based on race,” he wrote. That’s Clarence Thomas in his own words.

Because he doesn’t fit the model of an elite Black person supportive of leftist ideas, he must be smeared. Even worse, he threatens to deal another blow to their desire for racial experimentation in American institutions.

Let us be clear in calling out what the left is doing when they devolve into the gutter of hurling racial attacks at Black conservatives. They want conformity and control plain and simple. That should frighten and disgust us all.

* Devon Westhill is president of the Center for Equal Opportunity.

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