Posted Sept. 12, 2008 – There’s one undeniable fact about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas: He’s consistent.
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On Tuesday, speaking before an audience of Black-college presidents, the ultra-conservative justice, who was appointed by President G. H. Bush following the death of Thurgood Marshall, hammered home one of his favorite themes – that affirmative action is unconstitutional.
He said that the jobs-equity program "has become this mantra and there almost has become this secular religiosity about it. I think it almost trumps thinking." And speaking of religiosity, the 60-year-old legalist has never wavered in his votes in the High Court to shoot down race-based preferences.
"Just from a constitutional standpoint, I think we're going to run into problems if we say the Constitution says we can consider race sometimes," he said.
Ironically, Thomas says he believes his admission to the Yale Law School in the 1970s was based on his race. Thus, according to his writings in the autobiography “My Grandfather’s Son,” he took an ultra-challenging course load to show his White colleagues that he was just as capable as they were. But this is the very argument of supporters of affirmative action, who point out that, because of historical injustices, talented students of color are too often denied access. Once they do gain access, as in the case of Thomas, they have a chance to prove that they are indeed worthy, they say.
However, that’s not how Thomas sees it.
"My suggestion would be to stop the buzz words and to focus more on the practical effect of what we're doing," he told the leaders during a gathering of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. "I can tell you when you have fudge words, it leaves a lot of room for mischief," he said. "People have a tendency to read their personal opinions into fudge words. You want, when it comes to the issue of race, absolute words."
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