On January 20, 2017, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas administered the oath of office for Vice-President Pence. It was a first and ought to have been widely lauded as such to inspire young men to pursue careers in justice, not just making a career of protesting for social justice. Clarence Thomas’ administration of the oath as a long-standing Supreme Court Justice was the best of accomplishments and modeled what resurgent manhood looks like.
Continuing my look at black men who are making a real difference, I’d like to look at the life of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who once described his confirmation hearings as a “high-tech lynching.” He’s a man who has flaws, but who rose above them and didn’t deserve to have a bunch of critics pick up a stone and throw it as if they were flawless specimens of humanity. Clarence Thomas endured and overcame. He provides a positive example of resurgent manhood, not just for black Americans, but for all Americans.
In the 226-year history of the court, he is the second African-American Supreme Court Justice, after Thurgood Marshall who served from 1967 to 1991.
Clarence Thomas’s life is unusual because he is a black political conservative, who lost his first marriage, conquered rage and alcohol, and survived a high-tech lynching, by holding on to the promises of the Bible.
In Justice Thomas’ memoir Clarence Thomas: My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir, he recounts an event in the Catholic school he attended,
Some mocked me for trying to ‘talk proper’ and accused me of thinking that I was better than they were.”
Such men have long been considered “uppity blacks” or Uncle Toms or sell-outs to white culture. They are often chastised and become outcasts. Thomas writes,
“How could a black man be truly free if he felt obliged to act in a certain way — and how was that any different from being forced to live under segregation? How could blacks hope to solve their problems if they weren’t willing to tell the truth about what they thought, no matter how unpopular it might be? I already knew that the rage with which we lived made it hard for us to think straight. Now I understood for the first time that we were expected to be full of rage. It was our role — but I didn’t want to play it anymore. I’d already been doing it for too long, and it hadn’t improved my life. I had better things to do than be angry.”
So the quest for resurgent manhood began. Learning what it means or ought to mean to be a black man in America. In doing so, he encountered some brothers who came alongside and mentored him,
“Hearing Thomas Sowell, and speaking to him privately . . . was a landmark event for me.” Along with Sowell, there were Walter Williams and Jay Parker. Thomas said, “[They are] smart, courageous, independent-minded men who came from modest backgrounds. Politics meant nothing to them. All they cared about was truthfully describing urgent social problems, and finding ways to solve them”
That is what resurgence is all about. It’s not black or white or brown. It’s honesty. And it requires faith and courage.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas ends his memoir with this prayer,
“Lord grant me the wisdom to know what is right and the courage to do it. Amen.”