The Plank

Liberal Racism

By and

If Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas were liberal and University of Chicago English Professor Richard Stern were conservative, the latter's ugly little missive on Open University would already have been loudly denounced as racist by all the right people. But such are the double-standards of our political discourse.

Stern's post is patronizing throughout (he refers to "young Clarence"), and doesn't really say anything until the end. There, he accuses Thomas of engaging in "racist oratory" for his utterance of "high-tech lynching." Never mind what you think about Thomas's 16 year old turn-of-phrase; what makes Stern's accusation galling is that, out of nowhere, he compares Thomas to O.J. Simpson and "another prominent Thomas, Isaiah" (the New York Knicks coach who sexually harassed a female employee). What do these three men have in common? Oh, yes, they're all black criminals. The good professor then bizarrely contends that Thomas's new memoir amounts to "an inverted form of a Catholic confession," not unlike, of course, O.J.'s, If I Did It.

Shudder to think that a good liberal like Stern could fall prey to racist argumentation, but what else is he attempting to conjure, deep (or perhaps not so deep) in the recesses of his fellow white liberals' minds when he compares Clarence Thomas to O.J. Simpson and Isaiah Thomas ("I'm told that Thomas derives from "toma," the Aramaic word for twin")?

But at the end of the day, Clarence Thomas has the wrong politics, so it's hunky dory for liberal, white professors like Richard Stern to write about him as if he were some uppity black guy in dire need of being shown his place.

P.S.: A little housekeeping. Here's a correction to a post from last week about Helen Suzman's response to Lee Bollinger's invitation to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, from Mrs. Suzman herself:

The use of the words once-proud in the article "Bollinger vs Suzman", published in The Plank (09,28,07), should not be construed as a renunciation of my Honorary Doctorate of Law from Columbia University, of which I am still proud. It's intent was to voice my strong criticism of the provision of a platform to the Iranian President at Columbia by President Bollinger.

--James Kirchick

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