Django Unchained and the Latest Liberal Smear Against Clarence Thomas

c0d4Django Unchained Poster Jackson 250x400 Django Unchained and the Latest Liberal Smear Against Clarence Thomas

In Django Unchained,
Quentin Tarantino’s bloody new spaghetti western set in the
pre-Civil War American South, Samuel L. Jackson portrays the
despicable character of Stephen, the head house slave at a hellish
Mississippi plantation. Without giving too much of the story away,
suffice it to say Stephen emerges as one the main enemies our hero
Django, in a great performance by Jamie Foxx, must defeat while
attempting to liberate his wife from bondage.Reviewing the film for the Boston Globe, liberal critic
Wesley Morris
struggles to convey the villainy of Stephen’s character,
turning to a present-day comparison for help. “The movie is too
modern for what Jackson is doing to be limited to 1858,” Morris
writes. “He’s conjuring the house Negro, yes, but playing him as
though he were Clarence Thomas… [a man who] some black people
find embarrassing.”I realize that liberals like Morris have been saying all sorts
of stupid things about Clarence Thomas for many years now—including
the demonstrably false notion that Thomas is some sort of puppet of
Justice Antonin Scalia (The New York Times once described
Scalia as Thomas’ “apparent mentor”) when in fact Thomas is the one
who has had
an influence on Scalia’s legal approach—but the cheapshot
comparison here with Django’s slave power system is
particularly contemptible.Morris may be too uninformed to know it, but the fact is no
Supreme Court justice since Thurgood Marshall has written more
frequently or powerfully about American racism than Thomas.Consider his role in the 2003 case Virginia v. Black,
which centered on a state law criminalizing the act of
cross-burning when done “with the intent of intimidating any person
or group of persons.” While most of his colleagues seemed content
during oral argument to view the case solely through the lens of
First Amendment law, Thomas took a different view. The 1952
cross-burning act was intended to counteract “almost 100 years of
lynching and activity in the South” by the Ku Klux Klan and other
groups, he reminded the courtroom. “This was a reign of terror and
the cross was a symbol of that reign of terror.”Several months later, in a lone
dissent, Thomas went further, arguing that cross-burning was
part and parcel of racist terrorism and therefore deserved no
protection under the First Amendment. “Those who hate cannot
terrorize and intimidate to make their point,” he wrote.It was not an opinion designed to warm the hearts of free speech
absolutists, to be sure. But that doesn’t disqualify it from the
civil rights tradition. Nor would it be the last time Thomas
offered a history lesson about race in America.In 2010, for example, after the Supreme Court struck down
certain campaign finance restrictions in Citizens United v.
F.E.C., the majority in that case came under intense criticism
from various liberal groups for harboring an alleged pro-corporate
bias. In response, Thomas reminded champions of campaign finance
regulation that their cause was not exactly squeaky clean.“Go back and read why Tillman introduced that legislation,”
Thomas
told an audience at Stetson University College of Law,
referring to the Tillman Act of 1907, one of the earliest federal
campaign finance regulations, sponsored by Sen. Benjamin Tillman, a
leading Southern progressive and notorious white supremacist.
“Tillman was from South Carolina,” Thomas continued, “and as I hear
the story he was concerned that the corporations, Republican
corporations, were favorable toward blacks and he felt that there
was a need to regulate them.”But that verbal jab is nothing compared to Thomas’ contribution
to the 2010 case of McDonald
v. Chicago, where the Supreme Court ruled that the Second
Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies against state and
local governments via the 14th Amendment.In his concurring opinion in that case, Thomas once again
reached for the history books, this time tracing the 14th
Amendment’s origins to the antislavery movement and to the efforts
of the Radical Republicans of the 39th Congress, who sought to
force the former Confederate states to respect fundamental rights
after the Civil War—including the right to keep and bear arms, a
provision of particular importance to the recently freed slaves,
who were now facing the South’s incipient Jim Crow regime.That focus on black history even earned Thomas a
rare compliment from liberal Washington Post columnist
Courtland Milloy, who marveled, “His advocacy for black
self-defense is straight from the heart of Malcolm X,” while
likening the opinion to “a mix of black history lesson and Black
Panther Party manifesto.” Milloy’s sentiment was accurate, though
he should have reached further back for the comparison. Thomas’
advocacy for black self-defense came straight from the heart of
Frederick Douglass, whose writings Thomas repeatedly cited in the
McDonald opinion. “The liberties of the American people
were dependent upon the ballot-box, the jury-box, and the
cartridge-box,” Douglass once wrote. “Without these no class of
people could live and flourish in this country.”Which brings us back to Wesley Morris’ Django review.
Had Morris bothered to glance at Thomas’ jurisprudence, rather than
opting for a lazy and ignorant smear, he would have discovered a
writer whose work is steeped in African American history, and who
grapples repeatedly with the long shadows cast by slavery and Jim
Crow. Clarence Thomas may not qualify as a modern liberal, but
there is no question he remains part of a civil rights tradition
that started with Frederick Douglass.

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Django Unchained and the Latest Liberal Smear Against Clarence Thomas


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