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Clarence Thomas lacks institutional memory

Counting the Cost

Julianne Malveaux | 2/20/2014, midnight

Thomas is joined by George Zimmerman, who says his massacre of Trayvon Martin has nothing to do with race, and has cast himself as the victim in a tragedy he perpetuated. Thus Michael Dunn, objecting to loud music, aimed multiple bullets at a vehicle holding four young Black men, killing one, Jordan Davis, who was leaning away from the window of the vehicle, weaponless. Hiding behind the Stand Your Ground law, he says he felt threatened. Others posit (more correctly) that he objected to a young man mouthing off at him when he asked them to turn down their music. If he felt so “threatened” why did he even bother to approach the car of young men minding their business?

What has race got to do with it? In the time when people didn’t talk about race, this question might not be asked. Today, because people perceive “slights,” (like the murder of young Black men), the question of race inevitably and appropriately comes up. Thomas dissented in the Hudson case, which awarded an inmate $800 after he claimed cruel and unusual punishment when he was beaten so badly that his dental plate was broken in his mouth. I guess he regarded police brutality as a simple “slight.”

People talk about race (and gender) more because they are not muzzled by institutional racism that made it impossible to have these conversations without consequence, because “race champions” were beaten, firebombed, and killed because they dared seek social and economic justice. Thomas may lack institutional memory but he, frankly, makes a fool of himself when he openly displays his ignorance.

Julianne Malveaux is a D.C.-based economist and writer and president emerita of Bennett College for Women.