Dissing Justice Thomas

Posted: May 18, 2001 12:00 AM
Ebony, a monthly black magazine, puts out an annual list of the "100+ Most Influential Black Americans." First, the magazine's criteria. Influential means, "1. Does the individual transcend his or her position and command widespread national influence? 2. Does the individual affect in a decisive and positive way the lives, thinking and actions of large segments of the African-American population, either by his or her position in a key group or by his or her personal reach and influence?" Now supposedly the list neither excludes nor includes based on the influential person's ideology. "Being featured on the list," said Ebony, "does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of any particular individual or ideology." So guess which blacks never made the list? Thomas Sowell. Sowell, a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, is an economist and author of over two dozen books, including "The Vision of the Anointed," "Inside American Education" and "Race and Culture." About Sowell, Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman said, "The word 'genius' is thrown around so much that it's becoming meaningless, but nevertheless I think Tom Sowell is close to being one." Walter Williams. Williams, like Sowell, is an economist as well as a syndicated columnist whose work appears in hundreds of newspapers. Williams chairs the economics department at George Mason University, and has authored six books, including "The State Against Blacks," "America: A Minority Viewpoint" and "South Africa's War Against Capitalism." He regularly substitutes for Rush Limbaugh, America's most widely listened to radio talk-show host. Alan Keyes. This former ambassador to the United Nations ran for president in both 1996 and 2000. Many considered him the most effective, skillful debater of all the Republican aspirants. Ward Connerly. Connerly spearheaded California's Proposition 209, the successful ballot initiative that eliminated race- and gender-preferences in public hiring, contracting and admissions into colleges and universities. Connerly's book, "Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preferences," talks about the hostility and venom he generates from the so-called black leadership. But it gets worse. The list excluded Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. That's right. No Thomas. But doesn't a sitting Supreme Court member, by definition, constitute one of the nine most influential persons in America, let alone the black community? But no surprise here. One now-defunct publication, called Emerge, (a black news monthly) once put on its cover a caricature of Clarence Thomas dressed as a lawn jockey, holding a lantern and sporting a big grin. The heading? "Uncle Thomas, Lawn Jockey for the Far Right." Inside we see a cartoon of a kneeling Thomas shining the shoes of fellow Justice Antonin Scalia. So Clarence Thomas, because of his conservative ideology -- principally his opposition to affirmative action -- gets de-listed as black. Meanwhile, Ebony's sister publication, the weekly Jet, features golfing sensation Tiger Woods on its cover. Inside, the article twice refers to Woods as black, calling him, "The first black to win the Masters." What's the problem? Well, Woods does not call himself black, but "Cablinasian," an invented word to capture Woods' diverse ethnicity. Woods even released a statement, which Jet ignored, regarding his heritage: "My parents have taught me to always be proud of my ethnic background. ... On my father's side, I am African-American. On my mother's side, I am Thai. Truthfully, I feel very fortunate, and EQUALLY PROUD, to be both African-American and Asian! The critical and fundamental point is that ethnic background ... should NOT make a difference ... The bottom line is that I am an American ... and proud of it! Now, with your cooperation, I hope I can just be a golfer and a human being." Rev. Jesse Jackson made the list. Jackson, of course, recently admitted to an extramarital affair that produced an out-of-wedlock daughter. Jackson and his mistress now engage in a public battle over support payments and visitation issues. Jackson's mistress claims that Jackson has not seen his daughter since the beginning of the year, when the scandal broke. Meanwhile Justice Thomas, after his divorce, took principal responsibility for raising his son, Jamal. And recently, Justice Thomas won a court battle to obtain custody of his 10-year-old grandnephew. Irresponsible breeding remains America's No. 1 problem, and far and away the greatest problem facing the black community. Rev. Jackson, with his then-pregnant mistress, hypocritically and quite publicly provided counsel to help President Clinton "mend" his relationship with his family. On the other hand, Justice Thomas, who does the right thing and lives up to his moral and familial responsibilities, remains a pariah for many in the black community. Go figure. Because of Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's conservatism, Gloria Steinem called her a "female impersonator." And remember Lani Guinier, Clinton's former nominee for the civil rights section of the Justice Department? She once called certain blacks "inauthentic." So let's rename the list "The 100+ Most 'Authentically' Influential Black Americans." That's better.