By now you probably know that George Takei, who played Sulu in “Star Trek” and who recently married his longtime partner in a same-sex marriage, had this to say about Clarence Thomas’ declaration in his dissent in the same-sex marriage case that human dignity cannot be taken away by government, even by slavery, because it is a God-given attribute inherent in being human:

TAKEI: He is a clown in black face sitting on the Supreme Court. He gets me that angry. He doesn’t belong there. And for him to say, slaves have dignity. I mean, doesn’t he know that slaves were in chains? That they were whipped on the back. If he saw the movie 12 Years a Slave, you know, they were raped. And he says they had dignity as slaves or – My parents lost everything that they worked for, in the middle of their lives, in their 30s [he is referring here to the WWII Japanese American internment camps]. His business, my father’s business, our home, our freedom and we’re supposed to call that dignified? Marched out of our homes at gun point. I mean, this man does not belong on the Supreme Court. He is an embarrassment. He is a disgrace to America.

I’m discussing this issue not because of George Takei himself, but because what he says is emblematic of the approach of the left to argument, and to the presence of black conservatives, who are considered a special affront worthy of particular contempt. This is certainly not the first time Clarence Thomas has endured insults of a specifically racist nature.

Most people have focused on the “clown in black face” remark. But that’s almost a distraction from the rest.

Here are some of the elements of leftist argument that Takei’s attack illustrates:

(1) A misunderstanding of our country’s history and most fundamental principles, including those of the Declaration of Independence…
(2) that is either through ignorance or through purposeful misrepresentation…
(3) expressed in a manner that pits one person’s oppression against another, saying in effect that “you don’t understand my oppression, and you don’t even understand that of your own people”…
(4) and concluding that the other person is not a “real” exemplar of his very own race or ethnic group, because he/she does not march in lockstep with the leftist politics deemed suitable for that race.

Less important, but still of interest, is the fact that Takei thinks Clarence Thomas should learn about slavery (as Sulu seems to have done) through the movies, and then he’d really know about it in a more authentic way. I don’t think Takei is alone in his study of history via movies, either, or his recommendation that Thomas could learn from them.

Thomas, that is, whose actual (i.e. real life) history is as follows:

Clarence Thomas was born in 1948 in Pin Point, Georgia, a small, predominantly black community near Savannah founded by freedmen after the American Civil War. He was the second of three children born to M.C. Thomas, a farm worker, and Leola Williams, a domestic worker. They were descendants of American slaves, and the family spoke Gullah as a first language…[Thomas’ father] left his family when Thomas was two years old. Thomas’ mother worked hard but was sometimes paid only pennies per day. She had difficulty putting food on the table and was forced to rely on charity. After a house fire left them homeless, Thomas and his younger brother Myers were taken to live with his mother’s parents in Savannah, Georgia…

Living with his grandparents, Thomas enjoyed amenities such as indoor plumbing and regular meals for the first time in his life. His grandfather Myers Anderson had little formal education, but had built a thriving fuel oil business that also sold ice. Thomas calls his grandfather “the greatest man I have ever known.” When Thomas was 10, Anderson started taking the family to help at a farm every day from sunrise to sunset. His grandfather believed in hard work and self-reliance; he would counsel Thomas to “never let the sun catch you in bed.” Thomas’ grandfather also impressed upon his grandsons the importance of getting a good education.

Thomas was the only black person at his high school in Savannah, where he was an honor student…

At a nun’s suggestion, Thomas attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. While there, Thomas helped found the Black Student Union. Once he walked out after an incident in which black students were punished while white students went undisciplined for committing the same violation, and some of the priests negotiated with the protesting black students to re-enter the school.

Having spoken the Gullah language as a child, Thomas realized in college that he still sounded unpolished despite having been drilled in grammar at school, and he chose to major in English literature “to conquer the language”.

That’s the man Takei is lecturing about oppression, slavery, and indignity. But hey, because Thomas is a conservative—and because he doesn’t think a right to same-sex marriage is enshrined in the Constitution—it’s open season on him and he’s not a real black man. Leftists like to say they champion the rights of black people, but the only true black people are the ones who toe the party line.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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