Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Two From the Randy Kennedy Department: His New Book and Expelling Clarence Thomas from the Black Community

First, Professor Kennedy's new book, "The Persistence of the Colorline: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency," is out and has been reviewed in the NY Times here.  I can't wait to read it and after I do will post.

Second, Kennedy recently reviewed Toure's book at The here.  The most arresting paragraph of the review follows a discussion  of whether the black community should police the boundaries of belonging (determine for itself who is or who is not black to belong to the community).  Kennedy says yes and here is his example:

Some folks ought to have their racial credentials lifted. Consider Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas -- the most vilified black official in American history, a man whose very name has become synonymous with selling out. Many organizations, including scores of law schools, refuse to bestow any semblance of prestige or support through association with him. He is being massively boycotted. And like all boycotts, this one is coercive. It applies pressure to the target.
It also applies pressure to third parties, threatening with disapproval those who might cross the boycotters' picket line. The boycott of Thomas is largely monitored by blacks who detest his reactionary politics and rue his paradoxical success in exploiting black racial loyalism. Remember that but for his appeal for protection against a "high-tech lynching," he would probably have failed to win senatorial confirmation to the seat once occupied by Thurgood Marshall.
Is it right for blacks to cast Thomas from their communion? Is it appropriate to indict him for betrayal? These questions have arisen on numerous occasions. In confronting them now, I conclude that I have erred in the past. Previously I have criticized Thomas' performance as a jurist -- his complacent acceptance of policies that unjustly harm those tragically vulnerable to ingrained prejudices; his naked Republican Party parochialism; and his proud, Palinesque ignorance. But I have also chastised those who labeled him a sellout.
I was a sap. Blacks should ostracize Thomas as persona non grata. Despite his parentage, physiognomy and racial self-identification, he ought to be put outside of respectful affiliation with black folk because of his indifference or hostility to their collective condition. His conduct has been so hurtful to and antagonistic toward the black American community that he ought to be expelled from membership in it.
 This is a tough call for me.  First, is Clarence Thomas the most vilified black official in American history?  Hmm.  Is Clarence Thomas' jurisprudence so outrageous that he should be shunned?  If we boycott Thomas why not boycott Scalia and Roberts?  Should we boycott Thomas because as a black man he ought to know better?  Does that mean that Scalia and Roberts get a free pass.  Randall Kennedy is one of my intellectual role models, but I am not convinced on this one.

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