by John Hawkins | October 11, 2007 7:25 am
Earlier this week, I finished Clarence Thomas’ much hyped new book, My Grandfather’s Son.
Was the book as good as you’ve heard? It was indeed. In fact, I think it’s comparable to David Horowitz’s conservative classic, Radical Son, in many ways.
The book is, for the most part, a by-the-numbers biography of Thomas, but it is constantly seasoned with little nuggets of conservative philosophy and windows into Thomas’ thinking that add greatly to the book.
As to how Thomas grew up — he had it rough. He was poor, he lived in the segregated South back when racism meant you couldn’t drink from the white people’s water fountain and the color of your skin might mean you were thrown in jail for a crime you didn’t commit under the flimsiest of pretexts.
Thomas’ grandfather, whom he called “Daddy,” was an exceedingly stern taskmaster who demanded an enormous amount from Thomas and from himself. This quote will give you a good idea of what day to day life was like for Thomas in his grandfather’s house,
“In his presence, there was no play, no fun, and little laughter. ‘No time for that kind of foolishness,” he would say. Genesis 3:17-19 was his credo: ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken.’ Because of man’s fall from the Garden of Eden, Daddy said, it was our lot in life to work ‘from sun to sun.’ Once, years later, I got up the nerve to tell him that slavery was over. ‘Not in my house,’ he replied.”
Although “Daddy” was tough on Thomas, he taught him to work, insisted that he study hard, and instilled Christian values and common sense into Thomas that served him well later in life.
Additionally, there were details revealed about Thomas’ childhood that should shame many of the Democratic party lapdogs who have insulted Thomas over the years. Thomas’ grandfather, “was an active member of the local chapter of the NAACP and had routinely put up his property as bond to bail student protestors out of jail.”
Thomas decided, of his own volition, to become the first black student ever to attend Saint Vianney. It took a great deal of courage for a black teenager to break the color barrier at an all-white school in the mid-sixties — and as you’d imagine, it wasn’t always pleasant. At one point, Thomas was shaken after he had just heard about the death of Martin Luther King, and he described a note that a white classmate passed him.
“I like Martin Luther King…” it said on the outside. I unfolded the piece of paper. Inside was a single word: “…dead.”
As Thomas got out from under his grandfather’s watchful eye at college, he began to undergo a political transformation. He became radicalized and even participated in a race riot. This short excerpt will give you an idea of the mentality that he had at the time,
“Daddy and I never seemed to stop fighting. I complained bitterly about the oppression of blacks and told him that a revolution was coming. He assured me in return that America was the best country in the world, but I stood my ground and argued right back at him, and my newfound insolence made him furious. “I don’t know why I worked so hard to help you boy,” he said more than once. “I never thought you’d go to some d*mn school way up north and have all this foolishness put in your head.”
Fortunately, Thomas’ upbringing was too ingrained in him and he wasn’t fooled by the Left forever — but still, Reagan was the first Republican President that Thomas ever ended up voting for. But, the metamorphosis of his thinking began long before he hooked up with the Reagan administration. Here is a sample of it,
“I was bitter towards the white bigots whom I held responsible for the unjust treatment of blacks, but even more bitter towards the ostensibly unprejudiced whites who pretended to side with black people while using them to further their own political and social ends, turning against them when it suited their purposes. At least southerners were up front about their bigotry: you knew exactly where they were coming from, just like the Georgia rattlesnakes that always let you know when they were ready to strike. Not so the paternalistic big city whites who offered you a helping hand so long as you were careful to agree with them, but slapped you down if you started acting as if you didn’t know your place.”
I could go into more detail about Thomas’ time working for John Danforth, his stint at Monsanto, his time at the Department of Education, and at the EEOC, but there’s no need to go over every detail.
Still, there are three things worth noting about these middle years of Thomas’ life. First off, Thomas came across as very honest in the book because he included some unflattering details that most people might be tempted to leave out or airbrush. He left his first wife, he had a drinking problem, and he struggled to make enough money to keep his head above water until he was 40 years old.
……..Which brings me to the 2nd point — many people have described Thomas as being angry, but “unhappy” would be a better description of his mindset throughout most of the book, up until his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. You got the impression that through most of his life, Thomas struggled mightily and felt as if he wasn’t measuring up to his potential, even as he chalked up one notable accomplishment after another. The first time in the book when Thomas actually comes across as being happy is when he’s 40 years old and gets married for the 2nd time, improves his relationship with his son, gets an easier job, and finally makes enough money — with his wife’s help — to stop having to constantly worry about his bills.
Third, from a conservative standpoint, it’s worth noting that Thomas isn’t colorblind per se, he simply views liberal policies as being damaging to black Americans. He talked about how Affirmative Action makes many whites doubt the achievements of blacks, how government handouts destroy initiative, and the extremely condescending attitude of white liberals towards black Americans.
The last part of the book deals with Thomas’ confirmation hearings to the Supreme Court, which yes, Thomas is still justifiably furious about. Keep in mind that Thomas comes across as an intensely private person, who cares a great deal about his reputation, and is sensitive to racial slights. You can’t take a man like that and put him in front of a Senate committee that dug into his personal life, tried to destroy his reputation, and went after him in large part because he’s a black man who thinks for himself instead of taking orders from white liberals, and not expect him to hold a grudge.
Reading about the inside story of Thomas’ nomination was fascinating reading — well, for political wonks like me. The greasy duplicitousness of Joe Biden, the lies of the media and Anita Hill, the NAACP doing the “bidding of the AFL-CIO,” and the magnificent speeches Thomas blasted at the preening hyenas in the Senate after he got so upset about their tactics that he no longer cared whether he was confirmed or not made for real page turners. As a matter of fact, these words of righteous fury from Thomas almost make you wish you were there in the Senate to hear them and to watch the reaction on Ted Kennedy’s face,
“This is a circus. It is a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, as far as I am concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that, unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you, you will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the US Senate rather than hung from a tree.”
The book? It’s a great read and I wouldn’t hesitate in the slightest to recommend it to anyone. Thumbs way up on the book…
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