Dear Justice Thomas:

The purpose of this letter is to discuss with you the changes that are taking place in this nation, and the ways in which these changes will harm black people. More specifically, I would like to respond to your recent court decisions on affirmative action and electoral redistricting. Please do not interpret my words as antagonistic or of ill will, as I am speaking with a sense of honesty and truth. I believe that you need to hear what I have to say. You need to hear what many African-Americans are saying as they see the ground collapsing under their feet. Any good student of history knows what is happening in this country, and what will happen in the future if present trends continue.

As a young African-American, I am proud of my achievements. I am a Harvard graduate, a former Westinghouse semi-finalist, and a former exchange student to Japan. Although I was diligent and capable, I know that I do not owe my accomplishments to myself. I was not granted access to opportunities because I am special or superior. I went to Harvard because that road had been paved with the blood of those courageous people who died for my opportunity to attend Harvard. Certainly, I was as qualified as my white classmates (and more qualified than those who were admitted because their grandfather is a wealthy Harvard alumnus).

Qualified people of African descent always existed in this country, but were denied opportunity because of race. (Even Alexander Hamilton was denied admission to Princeton because his mother was a mulatto.) Significant numbers of blacks and other groups began to attend predominantly white institutions only after efforts were made to recruit and admit them. These efforts are affirmative action. Why should members of one group have all of the admissions spots, all of the jobs, all of the federal contracts and all of the congressional districts?

In many ways, history is repeating itself. One hundred years ago, blacks had made substantial gains following the Civil War, including two dozen members of Congress, governors and state legislators. Suddenly, all of that disappeared, not because of black ineptitude, but because of white racism, the tyranny of the majority. In the eyes of many, blacks were becoming too equal. Blacks did not deserve citizenship, including the right to exercise political and economic power. The result of this sentiment was states’ rights, Jim Crow, the Klan, and lynchings. The Constitution, so it seems, has never applied to black people. Thus, the history of this nation has been a struggle in which we have been forced to demand that we not be treated as outcasts.

The rejection of Cynthia McKinney’s district raises some questions. Why are you against the right of black people to elect their own representatives? Why are you seemingly fighting the interests of your own people? What makes a 60% black district unacceptable, but a 90% white district acceptable? Why are all of those irregularly shaped white districts acceptable? Why have some southern states recently elected their first black representatives since Reconstruction? Why are there only two black representatives from majority white districts, and one black senator? If you are not unaware of the pervasiveness of racism in this country, past and present, then you choose not to concern yourself with it. As Cornel West recently warned: “John Jay Chapman said it well when he said, ‘White supremacy is like a serpent wrapped around the legs of the table upon which the Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence.’ To talk about race in America is to take us to the very heart, the very core, of what it means to be American.”

Of course, you are entitled to your opinion. African-Americans are not monolithic. Further, as a member of the Supreme Court with a lifetime job, you have the freedom to vote as your conscience dictates. However, you do not have the moral right to vote in the spirit of Chief Justice Roger Taney in the Dred Scott decision, or the majority opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson. I do not know what is in your heart, and can only speculate about your motive. Nevertheless, I do know that many in the black community are concerned that you have drifted away, never to return. You were raised in this country as a black man, and should know better.

When I observe the state of 1995 America, I am reminded of another country in another time. That nation was suffering from economic problems and social despair. The Angry White Men of that nation had to blame someone for their misfortunes and suffering, and selected the Jews as the personification of their problems. The majority society claimed that the Jews were taking all of the jobs, and were responsible for poverty, moral degradation and social decline. Laws were enacted to isolate, oppress, and eventually dispose of the minority group. Some Jews, the Judenraten, participated in the oppression of their own people, perhaps in an attempt to immunize themselves from personal harm. Of course, these individuals soon learned that their attempt was in vain, that they were being utilized by the majority society, and that they too would perish.

Justice Thomas, if I sound harsh it is because of the harsh conditions that the Supreme Court is creating. If you are still angry about the confirmation hearings, move beyond your anger. Unlike Henry Foster, you were afforded a floor vote in the Senate. If you are angry at black people for what they call you, prove that they are wrong. Concern yourself more with how the historians will judge your tenure on the Court. We are approaching the twenty-first century, yet seem to be regressing back to the nineteenth. During a time of increasing diversity in the United States, we cannot afford to return to the ignorant backwater days of Jim Crow. Moreover, we cannot allow a black man to lead the way.


David A. Love

Note: Unfortunately, what Mr. Love wrote 27 years ago is even more true today.

David A. Love, JD - Serves BlackCommentator.com as Executive Editor. He is a journalist, commentator, human rights advocate, a Professor at the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information based in Philadelphia, a contributor to Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019, The Washington Post, theGrio, AtlantaBlackStar, The Progressive, CNN.com, Morpheus, NewsWorks and The Huffington Post. He also blogs at davidalove.com. Contact Mr. Love and BC.

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