Thomas Laments Victim Mentality, Reflects on Difficult Past

Thomas 2

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the high court’s second black justice, suggested Feb. 15 that he’s dissatisfied with race relations in the U.S. and what he sees as victim mentality.

"I was with a young woman who happened to be black in Kansas recently” and “she said, ‘I’m really tired of having to play the role of being black. I just want to go to school,’” Thomas said at an event at the Library of Congress.

"At some point we are going to be fatigued with everybody being a victim,” he said.

Thomas didn’t elaborate on any specific problem, saying only that increased race consciousness has some good effects, and some bad ones, too.

World of Illiteracy

Thomas did reflect on his difficult childhood circumstances and how his family learned to deal with them.

His grandfather, who raised both Thomas and his brother, “would not let us wallow in” those difficult times, Thomas said.

You have to play the hand you are dealt with, even if it’s a bad one, his grandfather used to say.

“I grew up around a world total of illiteracy,” Thomas said. But now, “I’m in the Library of Congress.”

Follicly Challenged

The wide-ranging discussion with newly confirmed U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces Judge Gregory E. Maggs also touched on some of the best—and worst—parts of being a Supreme Court justice.

The best part is watching all of his “kids” grow up, Thomas said, referring to his Supreme Court clerks, including Maggs himself.

The worst: dealing with the “myth making” surrounding the court.

There’s a real difference about what is reported about what goes on at the court, and what actually happens.

People talk as if the justices like to execute people, Thomas said. But he said he hasn’t met a single judge who likes that part of the job.

I mean, “look what it does to your hair,” Thomas said. “Your hair is black and then all of a sudden you are hair impaired” and the hair that remains is all gray.

People who suggest that judges callously vote to execute criminals are those “who never stayed up in the middle of the night and voted for these things,” Thomas said.

Every judge “says, ‘Did I get it right? Did I make a mistake?’” he said.

Thomas, along with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and more recently Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, frequently rebuffs death row inmates’ requests to halt their executions.