The Cruel Irony of Mr. Robinson
BLURB ON YALE LAW DEGREE
In the interview with Kroft, Thomas spoke of his experience at Yale Law School, which set aside a number of slots for minority students. He said he sees his Yale law degree as "tainted," worth less than a white student's degree.RESPONSE
This is why some critics have described Thomas as self-loathing -- not because he holds conservative political views or because he's a Republican, not because he objects in principle to affirmative action, but because he so discounts his own achievement. All Yale gave Thomas was the opportunity; he had to earn the degree. Yet he overlooks his own brains and hard work.
Thomas resents the fact that he couldn't get a job despite graduating in the middle of his class. Maybe prospective employers thought his white classmates were smarter, or maybe they just didn't want to hire a black man. But even if the whole world undervalued Clarence Thomas, why does he so undervalue himself that he keeps his law diploma in the basement with a "15 cents" sticker on the frame?
This is an issue we could go on and on about because we have never really reached the bottom of it, and maybe never will. But since the interview played differently to me than it did to Mr. Robinson, I'm putting a sword to his work:
[H]e sees his Yale law degree as "tainted," worth less than a white student's degree.
From what I saw in the 60 Minutes
interview, I would say Thomas didn't
see it that way so much as that's how everyone else
saw it -- in his view. From his classmates and professors to his prospective employers -- Thomas perceived a certain hypocrisy that while he had indeed "earned" his entrance into Yale, once he got there things were "different" -- and stayed "different" after he graduated.
Yet he overlooks his own brains and hard work.
Again, I didn't get that from the interview. From the interview it came across that he was the only one who didn't
overlook his brains and hard work. He seemed to be a bit driven mad with never having found a safe haven after years of struggle -- hard work and affirmative action notwithstanding.
[W]hy does he so undervalue himself that he keeps his law diploma in the basement with a "15 cents" sticker on the frame?
Again, it wasn't "himself" that he was undervaluing, it was the hidden hypocrisy he experienced in earning his degree. The "15 cents" sticker was how much the frame cost when he bought it, and he didn't care to peel it off, he said.
I took Thomas' reaction to his degree -- as expressed in the 60 Minutes
interview -- the same as if a patriotic soldier went to war filled with belief, and came back home with shattered belief. (Read the introduction to Swofford's Jarhead
and see where he kept his uniform for years after returning home.)
It's a process of psychology perhaps eerily similar to the so-called Question Mark shooter who did the massacre at Virginia Tech, where there's no home to settle into and the person goes nuts -- or where their preexisting instability gets exacerbated into insanity.
But the cruel irony of Mr. Robinson's attack on Thomas is that not only does he fault Thomas for not being swelled with pride about his Yale Law Degree ("he so discounts his own achievement") -- he immediately discounts Thomas himself
-- with essentially the same persecution Thomas says he got at Yale.
Back to affirmative action . . . . Even Thomas can't seriously believe Bush's claim that he was the "most qualified" candidate.
Did he ever say he did? If Thomas' personal experience at Yale taught him anything, it's that qualifications take a back seat to politics. A conclusion which Robinson has just confirmed whole-heartedly in the above quote!
Further, does Mr. Robinson mean to imply that the newly-appointed (white) Chief Justice was
the "most qualified candidate?" How many judges in the history of the Court
have been the "most qualified candidate?" It's preposterous to imply that Supreme Court appointments aren't driven by a political element. If Mr. Robinson was really so concerned about "under-qualified" judges on the bench -- is this area of concern reflected in his past work? Or is his area of concern a "black on black" issue between himself and Thomas -- where the actual bone of contention is the political method
of how to best help formerly enslaved blacks!
Whatever the case may be, it's fine by me if Mr. Robinson wants to attack Justice Thomas. But an attack can only be as effective as the skill with which it's written -- and the skill with which the personal truth of Justice Thomas is perceived. On both counts, Mr. Robinson's "15 cent" attack is "not the most qualified candidate" to "destroy" Justice Thomas. "Even he can't seriously believe that."