God Save The Queen.
Why is it that when actor and gay rights activist, George Takei, referred to Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas, as a ‘Clown In Blackface,’ he’s suddenly an evil racist (http://www.rawstory.com/2015/07/conservatives-george-takei-worse-than-kkk-for-calling-clarence-thomas-a-clown-in-blackface/)? Many people who followed the news about Marriage Equality becoming the law of the land in the USA would’ve been familiar with the abhorent comments Thomas wrote in his dissent, stating:
“Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them.”
These comments came from a man who’s taken a stand against Affirmative Action, even though he clearly benefitted from it (http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/09/us/clarence-thomas-three-questions/). Let’s be fair, for someone who was reportedly born to a poor family in rural Georgia, to later be admitted to Yale Law School and wind up as a Supreme Court Justice, that’s one Hell of an accomplishment. However, the disappointment came from the fact that even though Thomas surpassed many hurdles to become the success many of us dream of, he’s lost sight of his own roots.
With regards to Takei’s Blackface reference, he hit the nail on the head. Consequently, those who believe that his comments were a racist attack against a black man clearly missed the point. What’s important to know is that during the 1820’s, Black Minstrelsy became very popular—where Caucasian male performers wore tattered clothes along with dark make-up in order to mock Black people by portraying stereotypes. It’s also important to mention that Caucasian entertainers weren’t the only ones who performed in Blackface, Black entertainers were also known to put on dark-coloured make-up in order to appear as Black as possible. Whites would reject Black minstrel entertainers if they didn’t appear to be black enough. This led to them demeaning themselves for the sake of satisfying Whites. African-American vaudeville performer, Bert Williams, was one such performer who ‘blackened’ himself. (http://thegrio.com/2013/10/30/a-brief-history-of-blackface-just-in-time-for-halloween/).
The most repugnant part about Thomas’s slavery reference was that this was the type of inane rhetoric one would expect to come from farless educated people—such as Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh—for the sake of appealing to their platforms. This wasn’t the kind of oratory one would expect from someone who abandoned their path to priesthood at a Missouri seminary after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. To be precise, Thomas quit after a white classmate cheered and said he hoped “the S.O.B. died” (http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/stories/2007-03-11/the-holy-cross-fraternity).
There’s no doubt that Thomas has conservative leanings. However that did not give him a free pass to insult African and Asian-Americans for the sake of scoring a few political points—as it was perceived. By doing so, he not only came across as being unsuitable to be a judge—or as Takei stated, “A Clown In Blackface,” but also a black man who chose to hold onto a (House) slave mentality.