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Clarence Thomas’s Radical Vision of Race
The Man Behind Critical Race Theory
Critical race theory
Columbus Mileposts | Sept. 6, 1979: First day of school busing accomplished quietly
Columbus Among First Districts In Nation To Desegregate
Full Interview with Marcee Lichtenwald on Glass City Humanist (used with permission)
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization
Aggie Fund Linktree (includes links to many abortion resources)
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Doug Berger 0:04
In this episode, we explore the black nationalist roots of the US Supreme Court’s most conservative justice, and how his views on racism dovetail nicely with critical race theory. Finally, we hear from a volunteer at an abortion clinic about the violation of religious freedom we got with the dobs V. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision last month that overturned Roe v Wade. I’m Doug Berger. And this is Secular Left.
Doug Berger 0:50
Thank you for joining me today. And before we get started with the segment that I want to talk about, I do want to say or give a disclaimer, I am going to be talking about racism, Clarence Thomas CRT and inequality, segregation, you know, things that are of particular importance to African Americans in this country. I am not black, I am a white cisgendered male person. And so I am not from that culture. And so I could be ended up talking out of my behind on this on this subject. And really, if if you’re hearing this, and you vehemently disagree with my take on things, please feel free to let me know, reach out, send me a comment. Twitter, send me go to the website. Send me a diatribe. I’m all for it. And any contrary information that I get, that could possibly help clarify things. I will more than happy to be share that on a future episode. Just let me know. And so I just wanted to put that disclaimer out there for you.
Doug Berger 2:15
The recent Dobbs decision that overruled Roe v Wade, and led to the greatest revocation of rights since the end of Reconstruction is something that needs to be discussed. The concurrence of Justice Clarence Thomas, wasn’t a surprise. He’s never agreed that we have a right to privacy in the Constitution. He’s one of those textualist or original originators, who only believe the rights we have are ones explicitly written in that 200 plus odd year old document that we call the Constitution. Of course, he ignores the Ninth Amendment where the document says there might be more rights that are not explicit in the documents, but anywho it is what it is. We also know that Clarence Thomas opposes affirmative action and has opposed it since he’s been on the bench he was appointed in the 90s believe 1991. I’ve always wondered why Thomas, who benefited from affirmative action in his lifetime is opposed to it. And now I think I know why. I recently found a New Yorker article from 2019. That was written by Corey Robin. And it describes a Thomas who grew up in the Jim Crow South, attended Holy Cross University as part of affirmative action. And he also attended Yale Law School as also part of affirmative action. But while he was at Holy Cross, He became radicalized into black nationalism. Now, for those that don’t know, Black Nationalism is the idea that revolves around the social, political, and economic empowerment of black communities and people, especially to resist their assimilation into white culture, through integration or otherwise, and maintain a distinct black identity. Some of the people who supported Black Nationalism over the years include Malcolm X, and Stokely Carmichael. Black Nationalism is also a leftist ideology. It’s radical. In college Justice Thomas was a leftist and protested a lot in support of his black nationalism. Black Nationalism also opposed interracial sex and marriage, and so did Clarence Thomas until he met and married his second wife in the 1970s. Black Nationalism has also had a a thin thread of misogyny in it. In the article Robin writes, it’s not surprising that Thomas and his classmates would affirm their solidarity in gender terms. Masculine ism As a historian Steve Estes has argued, was not uncommon in the black freedom struggle, or indeed in many of the movements of the late 1960s. Militants often framed their demands in the idiom of black male honor, which could be met only by recognition from white men and deference from black women. I think that the key to understand Justice Thomas is to see that black nationalists opposed the civil rights movement, because they didn’t believe that blacks should be beholden to white people to give them equality.
Doug Berger 5:34
Also, from the article, Robin writes, on the eve of his appointment to the Supreme Court, Thomas was still summoning Malcolm as a witness for the prosecution against the liberal establishment. Thomas said I don’t see how the civil rights people today can claim Malcolm X is one of their own. Where does he say? Black people should go begging the Labor Department for jobs? He was hell on integrationists? Where does he say you should sacrifice your institutions to be next to white people? Now, the usual and that’s the end of that article clip. The usual white conservative argument against affirmative action is that it is reverse discrimination against white people. Justice Thomas had a different take. He believed that affirmative action labeled black people unfairly as inferior, needing help. And as a way to continue white supremacy by elevating whites to the status of benefactors doling out scarce privileges to those black people they deem worthy. And you see that argument a lot. When people complain about affirmative action. They naturally assume that somebody who gets their job because a company or public agency wants to see more diverse, wasn’t qualified to get their job because of affirmative action. That’s just how white people think. Or seem to think about it. In Grutter V. Bollinger, a 2003 affirmative action case concerning the University of Michigan Law School, Thomas dissented. And he believed that, quote, affirmative action is merely a solution to the self inflicted wounds of an elitist admissions policy. If a school insists upon maintaining an exclusionary emission system that it knows produces racially disproportionate results, the only way to diversify it so is to rely on measures that maximize its discretion regarding race. Affirmative action, then is not about racial equality. It’s about preserving the prerogatives of white elites, allowing them to bestow the blessings of society upon a few few lucky American African Americans. Thomas does not believe this to be a constitutional value, much less one the court should honor. And then finally, The New Yorker article notes. In keeping with his conservative black nationalism, Thomas sees in such integration real harm to black people. In 1995, after a lower court argued that racial isolation and education that is continuing segregation of black and white schools, without formal state compulsion was a constitutional injury to black school children. Thomas took offense. If separation itself is a harm he wrote, In if integration, therefore, is the only way that blacks can receive a proper education, then there must be something inferior about blacks. For Thomas seemingly egalitarian policies, like integration thus become evidence of racial paternalism. His argument echoes that, that of Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton’s Black Power integration, Carmichael and Hamilton wrote, reinforces among black, both black and white, the idea that white is automatically superior and black is by definition inferior. For this reason, integration is a subterfuge for the maintenance of white supremacy. So that is a different take on affirmative action to be sure that it’s a maintenance of white supremacy. In 1992, and one of his first opinions on the court, Thomas wrote, conscious and unconscious prejudice persists in our society, common experience and common sense confirm this understanding. 10 years into his tenure, he was still affirming that idea. If society cannot end racial discrimination he wrote in a concurrence at least it can arm minorities with the education to defend themselves from some of discriminations effects. That if flies by so quickly that the reader may not notice what Thomas is doing rather than setting up a conditional he is presenting the inability to end racism as the condition of American society.
Doug Berger 10:10
And what got me was that that profile and Thomas’s history led me to look again at CRT because it sounded familiar. Critical Race Theory is a cross disciplinary, intellectual and social movement of civil rights scholars and activists who seek to examine the intersection of race, society and law in the United States and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice. And no, it’s not being used in the public schools to shame white children for slavery. Anyhoo CRT evolved from the writings and teachings of Derrick Bell, who worked on many civil rights cases, but had his doubts about the results. Belle’s idea is that racism is a permanent part of the DNA of the United States. And many of the Civil Rights victories experienced in the 50s and 60s actually hurt black people in the long run. And the art again, this is a profile of Derrick Bell in the New Yorker. And I’ll have the links to all this information up in the show notes. So this our New Yorker article gives an example says the issue of busing was particularly complicated. Brown versus Board of Education centered on the circumstances of Linda Brown, an eight year old girl who lived in a mixed neighborhood in Topeka, Kansas, but was forced to travel nearly an hour to a black school, rather than a 10 one closer to her home, which under law was reserved for white children. During the 70s, in an attempt to put integration into practice, school districts sent black students to better financed white schools. The presumption was that white parents and administrators would not underfund schools that black children attended if white children were also students there. In effect, it was hoped that the valuation of whiteness would be turned against itself. But in a reversal of Linda Brown situation, the white schools were generally farther away than the local schools, the students would otherwise have gone to. So the remedy effectively imposed the same burden, as had been imposed on brown, albeit with the opposite intentions. Bell was pessimistic about the effectiveness of busing, and at a time when a lot of people weren’t the scholarship scholar Patricia Williams told the writer of this article. More significant, though, was growing doubtful about the prospect of ever achieving racial equality in the United States. The Civil Rights Movement had been based on the idea that the American system could be made to live up to the Democratic creed prescribed in its founding documents. But Bell had begun to think that the system was working exactly as it was intended to do. That was why progress was invariably met with reversal. Indeed, by the 80s, it was increasingly clear that the momentum to dis desegregate schools had stalled. A 2006 study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that many of the advances made in the first years had been erased during the 90s. And that 73% of black students around that time attended schools in which most students were minorities. And so when I read that in the article about Derrick Bell, it kind of reminded me of when I was living in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus, like many urban school districts in the north, had issues with busing in the 70s. Because, like it pointed out in this article, that the white schools were further away, then the neighborhood black schools, and the black children had to be bused in order to enforce integration. And part of that was a product of white flight is a lot of these white families after Brown versus Board of Education, a lot of these white families that didn’t want their kids around black children moved to the suburbs. And so that’s why a lot of the suburbs had predominantly white children in their schools. And so a lot of these black children had to travel an hour or more each day to get to school.
Doug Berger 14:36
So roundabout, the 90s or so there was a movement in the black community to end busing, the end of the requirements for busing. And a lot of progressives and liberals were aghast. They’re like, what? Why are you doing that? And they made a compelling argument, at least at the time. I don’t have the documentation on it, I just this is from memory. So please correct me if I get this wrong. But a lot of the people in the black community in Columbus wanted to send their children to neighborhood schools, they wanted, you know, little Timmy and Jenny, to be able to walk to school are for their parents to walk them to school. And they didn’t want to have to take them and put them on a bus for an hour or two, for however long distance, and be out of the neighborhood, they want to, they want to, and they knew that if they did this, if they did neighborhood schools, that it was going to be a majority, minority. population in the school, they knew it. And some of them embrace that, because what they wanted to do is they wanted to, to teach culture, black culture, and they wanted to get back to the roots of what being, being a black person was about. And, and, and, and do that, that thing, and they wanted to do it in their schools and their neighborhoods, they didn’t want to ship them off to the suburbs where they would get bullied and, and ostracized and, and the racist would have their day with them. And they’d be exposed to all these white people. And they were afraid they were might lose their culture, their links to the culture. Mandatory busing continued in Columbus until 1996. And at the behest of the black community, who wanted to return to neighborhood schools, busing was quietly ended. And so one of the results of that was that some community members got together. And they actually created a African American centric, high school called Afro centric. And it was part of Columbus has, what they call that to lottery, they have a lottery where you can choose pick, you can ask to go to any school in the district. And no matter where it is in the district, and it’s not, it’s not confined to just your neighborhood or, or your, what they call the enrollment area. So let’s say you live on the east side of Columbus, and you want to go to Centennial, which is on the west side, you could ask to go there and sign a form, and then they decide and all that stuff. And so they did this Afrocentric school and a lot of a lot of black children went to the school, it still exists. It’s almost like a charter school, but it’s not. It’s still part of the public school system. And they have some very good athletic teams. But anyway, so basically, that kind of reminded me that reading about what Derrick Bell thought about forced busing, really, it really kind of changed my view on it. Because I was like one of those liberals, white liberals who thought that that was the best thing is to ship these black kids to white suburban schools, so that they would get a good education. But getting back to this article about Derrick Bell, and Bell second major article of this period, and this was in the late 70s, early 80s. He wrote Brown v Board of Education and trust convergence dilemma, and it was published in January 1980. And the Harvard Law Review, poked a hole in the perception that the societal changes of the mid 20th century were the result of a moral awakening among whites. Instead, he wrote, they they were a product of interest, convergence and Cold War pragmatism. Armed with images of American racial hypocrisy, the Soviet Union had a damning counter to American criticism of its behavior in Eastern Europe. As early as the 1931 Scottsboro trial in which nine African American teenagers were wrongfully convicted of raping two white women, the Soviets publicized examples of American racism internationally, the tactic became more common after the start of the Cold War.
Doug Berger 19:19
And so that was an interesting take that that these victories, these victories that helped minorities and people of color, like Brown of v Board of Education and, and some of the other ones look like a monumental shift. But it wasn’t. It was window dressing, because it didn’t address the systemic racism inherent in this this Republican system we call the United States. It just kind of changed the curtains as it were on the window. That was an interesting take i. And I can see that. And so they’re talking about how they did this because they wanted to, they were trying to get allies on their side against the Soviets. And so when they went to India and to countries in Africa, they would complain, well, look what you’re doing with your, your black people. So they would get these, these these that like the Voting Rights Act, they’d be like, see, you know, we’re doing all right, we have black friends, that’s essentially what they were saying is we have black friends. And so that was just a very interesting take. And so Derrick bells, ideas that became evolved into CRT sound a lot like Clarence Thomas, his views on affirmative action and civil rights law. And in Thomas’s profile, that that in the New Yorker, they actually quote him, he says, I am the only one at this table who attended a segregated school. And the problem with segregation was not that we didn’t have white people in our class. The problem was that we didn’t have equal facilities. We didn’t have heating, we didn’t have books, and we had rickety chairs. All my classmates and I wanted was the choice to attend a mostly black or a mostly white school, and to have the same resources in whatever school we chose. So these two articles put in my mind a better understanding of Clarence Thomas, I still think he needs to resign because his wife was involved with the insurrection. But at least I see where he isn’t the usual conservative with the I got my screw you, viewpoint. Derrick bells, ideas that racism will always exist now makes me wonder, what can we do then? To address it? That’s the next question to try to answer.
Doug Berger 22:08
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Doug Berger 22:36
As I explained in the previous segment, one of the reasons why I got interested in exploring Clarence Thomas, this black nationalism was because of his concurrence that he wrote in the Dobbs V Women’s Health Center decision in June 24 That overturned Roe v. Wade, and how he doesn’t believe in that there’s a right to privacy. And if the rights only there’s only rights in the in the Constitution that are explicitly stated, etc, etc. Well, I didn’t want to do a big whole episode about the Dobbs decision. I think there’s other people out there that did it. However, another podcast that I host called glassy humanists. I interviewed Marcee Lichtenwald, she is a volunteers as a patient escort at one of the last abortion clinics here in Toledo. And we talked about the dogs decision and there’s some relevance to people that listen to secular left, where we’re talking about the the intersection of church and state and, and separation of church and state and how the dobs decision was a violation of the First Amendment for those of us who are not Christian.
Doug Berger 23:54
And so we kind of go into that a little bit. We also talk a little bit about protesting churches. So let’s give it a listen. And if you want to hear the whole interview, I’ll have a link to it in the show notes for this episode, and you can go listen to the whole thing, but I really thank Marcee for allowing me to use it in this episode. And being that I’m the producer and host of glasses, a humanist thanks to myself for allowing it to be used as well. So here’s Marcy lectern walk and we are speaking with Marcee Lictenwald, who happens to be a member of SHoWLE. She is a volunteer patient escort with the Toledo Abortion Center, which is the last abortion clinic in Northwest Ohio. And she volunteers with the Agnes Reynolds Jackson Fund, which helps fund abortions for those not able to afford them. Thank you for joining us today. Marcy.
Marcee Lichtenwald 24:46
Thank you for having me.
Doug Berger 24:47
And I think too, one of the major arguments that they often use is that they consider a fetus a child and at taking In the fetus out before it’s born is murder. Do you have any suggestions about how we can get around that? Or? Well, I
Marcee Lichtenwald 25:09
think it’s important to understand that that is. It’s an extreme Christian Right View. And so what they’re essentially doing is forcing a very specific religious ideology on to the public, which completely goes against our First Amendment. There are plenty of other religions out there that do not share that same view regarding embryos and fetuses. I personally am an atheist humanists. That’s why I’m part of secular humanism in Northwest Ohio, you know, you know, they don’t have any right to force that worldview on to me, there is absolutely no consensus within the scientific community on when life actually or, you know, begins as far as how you how you define life, whether it begins at conception, whether it begins at that first breath, once the, you know, the fetuses born. I mean, that is very, very subjective based on you know, your religion, you’re not a religion or whatever. So no one specific religious aspect, especially this extreme, right, religious ideology that is being forced upon us, I mean, we’ve got legislators that are creating laws based on an extreme Christian view.
Doug Berger 26:26
Right. And I noticed that one of these new ad hoc groups protested a local church this weekend, which I find intriguing. I think if religious people protest at clinics, then supporters of abortion rights should protest at churches who are anti abortion. What do you think?
Marcee Lichtenwald 26:44
Yeah, I actually really agree with you. And I’ve engaged in protests outside of churches for that very reason. But again, it has to be done. It has to be done well, so know your organizer and trust your organizer. The faiths Act, which is freedom of Acts, freedom of access to clinic entrances, it was something Bill Clinton passed back in the 90s, in response to like, the heavy civil disobedience that was going on, outside of abortion clinics, and people were, you know, invading clinics, they were chaining themselves, they were blocking doors, keeping patients from being able to go inside. So the face Act was created to stop that from happening. So you could actually bring federal charges against people for blocking these entrances. I think it’s very important for people to understand that this also applies to churches. Because little sidenote, the only way that they could pass the face Act was if they included churches. So because so many people were blocking entrances, that churches they had to include churches and that, but so what people need to understand is if you are protesting outside of churches, there is always a potential for a felony charge. So people need to know ahead of time what they’re getting themselves into, if they’re going to be outside of these churches. So if there is no public property for you to be on, that’s a huge indicator that you might be chancing a felony charge. If there is nowhere for you to put an annual and a lesser angle, if there’s nowhere for you to park your car, your chancing finds your car, you know being towed, you know, the charge part, you know, you know, if you’re going to park on private property, you can’t do that. Again, if people want to be vigilantes that’s 100% up to them, but they have to have all the facts and make those decisions for themselves. They have to know the risks.
Doug Berger 28:27
And one of the major downsides to the Dobbs ruling is it really puts the right to privacy in danger for everyone. Should we point that out to help build coalitions to help change it? The law focused on the effect on people with uteruses?
Marcee Lichtenwald 28:46
Oh, gosh, no, it’s going to affect everything. And I think Clarence Thomas even kind of laid that out for us. I mean, they’re not going to it didn’t start with Roe and it’s not going to end with Roe Roe was a major major blow because Roe was decided based on the right to privacy, but people you know, like I mentioned earlier, this is this is also religious ideology being forced on to us, they completely they completely disregarded the First Amendment and this ruling because we have a right to freedom of which also means from religion. So what they’re doing is they’re basing these decisions because of religious ideology that they are actually forcing on to community that they’re working on to the people. Laws are going to be created our own state, our own state judges are, are going to rule on cases based on historical tradition, that language has already been taken out of a lidos out of elitist decision. What defines historic tradition? I mean, we could probably do a whole other podcast on the the historical tradition of this country. So yeah, it definitely isn’t about people with uteruses when it comes to this decision. It affects people with uteruses directly that decision does. But this is going to lead to to all sorts of rights being taken away from us and we’re already seeing it happen. I mean this this opens so many doors. It’s it’s utterly terrifying. And people need to be terrified. They need to be, they need to act and they need to lift up and they need to realize what just happened.
Doug Berger 30:10
Yeah, and the the Dobbs decision was a monumental retraction of rights for women. And there have been some forceful words coming from women, about how men get involved in supporting abortion rights. So how can someone like me be supportive and get involved without stepping over that line?
Marcee Lichtenwald 30:33
I think the best thing is to make sure that, you know, people with uteruses are at the forefront we really really uh, you know, and I’m going to say we have to absolutely center black and indigenous people of color, these are the most effective people you know, by, by these abortion bans, abortion bans or classes, they are racist and black indigenous people of color are going to be the most heavily affected. So we have to look for black leadership and, you know, leadership of women of color people of color within the circumstances, when it comes to white sis men and I am going to say white sis men, because unfortunately, you are the the most protected class. Well, I guess white women are probably the most protected class, but you have the most amount of privilege within this country. So you really you just you got to be supportive, but kind of also sit on the sidelines, don’t be the loudest person at the protest. Don’t be the one organizing the protests. Because that this is that’s not your face. We want your ally ship and we want you to have conversations with other men. have those conversations with your friends, don’t laugh at the jokes, don’t engage in those jokes, stop and say, Hey, you want to know what, you know, this is the type of thing that leads to violence against women. This is the type of thing that leads to a country that is controlling, you know, women’s lives and you know, people with uteruses lives and, you know, you just have to really examine things that you two have internalized. Recognize that and yourself, you know, and kind of break those down. But when it comes when it comes down to it, we need you there. But don’t center yourself. In those conversations. Don’t say even as an ally, you know, don’t engage in not all men rhetoric, you know, because, again, when you do that you’re centering yourself because it is all men, you know, it really is because we all I mean, we all have our own internalized things that we’ve taken in because of our because of our privileges, so you have to recognize it, and you have to have those conversations with people but don’t center yourself.
Doug Berger 32:35
Thank you for listening to this episode. You can check out more information, including links to sources used in our show notes on our website at secularleft.us. Secular Left is hosted, written and produced by Doug Berger, and he is solely responsible for the content. Send us your comments, either using the contact form on the website or by sending us a note at comments at secularleft.us Our theme music is dank and nasty composed using ampify studio. See you next time
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