Of course, while there is anger in the book -- justifiable anger, one might argue -- there is also tenderness, vulnerability, brutal honesty and overflowing gratitude. None of the major reactions to the book seem to have noticed those things. There is also unswerving intellectual integrity. A small example among many: In law school, Justice Thomas relates, "I was uncomfortably aware that blacks failed to pass the bar exams at a much higher rate than whites, and that the NAACP Legal Defense Fund had filed lawsuits alleging that the exams they took were racially discriminatory. . . . At first I assumed that the disproportionate black failure rate was conclusive evidence of racial discrimination, but the more closely I looked at the facts the more apparent it became that I was wrong. At that time each question on the bar exam was graded separately by a difference scorer and each completed exam identified solely by number, thus making it impossible for the graders to tell which examinees, if any, were black." Thomas concluded that the poor education many blacks received was the culprit, but by differing from the conventional wisdom he was already on the road to heresy.
Justice Thomas has continued that apostasy on the Supreme Court, courageously and brilliantly arguing his philosophy in one magnificent opinion after another. Jan Crawford Greenburg, longtime Supreme Court reporter for the Chicago Tribune, now with ABC, dismisses in her recent book the claim that Thomas is some sort of cipher on the Court (a view held only by the abysmally ignorant). "An extensive documentary record shows," she writes, "that Justice Thomas has been a significant force in shaping the direction and decisions of the court for the past 15 years." No one who has read his opinions could fail to appreciate that.
Finally, no one who has had the pleasure of meeting Clarence Thomas would recognize him from the public descriptions that have greeted this book. His legendary laugh is sonorous and infectious. His manner is dignified yet approachable. Those who know him are aware of his passionate efforts to help other blacks -- and of his equally passionate refusal to advertise this. The Anita Hill business is a tiny part of this man's story -- a story that makes for very rewarding reading.
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