I have to admit that I actually sat and watched the HBO movie, Confirmation, for two hours. It made absolutely no sense for me to sit through that poor rendition of the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas confrontation back in 1991. I guess one reason I did it because the basketball games were all rather boring and Wendell Pierce is a pretty good actor and also I had the opportunity to watch Kerry Washington doing something other than jumping in a married man’s arms.


Now that it is over, I really should have done something more meaningful like work on editing the screenplay that a screenwriter just completed of my novel, Fires of Greenwood or maybe did some more research into my next major project on the life of Bayard Rustin. I did none of those things, but just sat there and wondered why Wendell Pierce would play the role of Clarence Thomas and therefore increase his likeability as a Black man and Supreme Court Justice.

wendell-pierce-as-clarence-thomasPierce’s portrayal of Thomas as a strong, determined and unapologetic Black man was quite impressive but I do not believe it to be very truthful. Pierce almost convinced me that Thomas was telling the truth and Anita Hill had been used by the Thomas haters to curtail his nomination. In the final analysis, however, I don’t believe that to be truthful. One only need to study Thomas’ attitude toward his own people and his voting record on issues of importance to Black America to know that he probably would disrespect a Black woman while all the time showing all respect toward his white wife.

clarencethomasThomas has always struck me as one of those many Black men who run as far away from their blackness as is possible (with the exception when they can use it to their advantage as Thomas did with the claim of a Technological Lynching or some words to that affect). While working for Senator Danforth (R. Missouri) on Capitol Hill, he certainly avoided any contact with the other Black staffers to include me. For the three years that I worked for Senator Birch Bayh (D. Indiana), I helped organize a group called the Black Senate Staffers. Our goal was to meet once a month and invite some leading Black spokesperson to talk with us about the major pending issues of Black America. During our sessions we had such leaders as Benjamin Hooks, Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King, Bishop Desmond Tutu and the highlight of all our sessions was when Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall spoke to our group. We invited all Black Senate Staffers to join us, regardless of political affiliation. And we did have staffers from both Democrat and Republican Senators participating because we managed to put race issues above politics. Clarence Thomas never made one of our sessions, even though he was told about them on every occasion.

On another occasion, Thomas wrote an article for a local conservative newspaper in which he excoriated welfare recipients to include his sister. There was very little doubt among many of us in Washington D.C. that President Ronald Reagan appointed him Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Department of Education and later as Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for the sole purpose of sabotaging civil rights operations in both agencies. Reagan was not a strong proponent of civil rights. He was later nominated and confirmed to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a judgeship for which he lacked strong credentials. And then in 1991, President Georg H. W. Bush nominated him for the United States Supreme Court to ironically fill the vacancy created when Thurgood Marshall resigned. A lion was replaced by a lamb. One of the strongest lines in the HBO movie occurred when Attorney Charles Ogletree told Anita Hill that, “he had law students more qualified than Thomas.”

Thomas has risen to the top on the backs of his own people, a people who he rejects and feels no obligation to consider their best interests when deciding how to vote on issues important to the race. It doesn’t take a quantum leap to reach the conclusion that this man probably has very little respect for the race, and probably none for the women of the race. We all know of the long history of white men abusing our women, abusing their integrity with all kinds of sexual innuendos and often acting them out, while all along treating their women like the Virgin Mary. Because Thomas appears to have such a low self-esteem of his Black skin and of his race, and because he appears to admire the white race, it is easy to assume that he would treat Black women in the same disrespectful manner as white men have done for decades.


As an actor, Wendell Pierce gets into the art of his role and probably not into the image he might create of a specific character. That had to be the case with this portrayal of Clarence Thomas as a strong Black man, who was being treated unfairly by a system that was out to get him. But for those who have known the man in the past and those who have studied his behavior over the years, we are aware that Pierce’s characterization of Thomas lacked credibility. To that extent, he did us a dis-service, as he practically made Thomas a hero or someone to be admired because, in reality, nothing is further from the truth

Dr. Ben Carson: You don’t have to agree with him. But he is one of us!

I can vividly recall the year that President George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to be on the United Supreme Court. It happened years after I had worked as a Legislative Aide to Senator Birch Bayh, while Thomas worked for a Republican Senator John Danforth from Missouri. It was the late 1970’s, and a time when many Senators hired Black staffers in key positions. Thomas was one of those few.

There were about twenty of us who made the decision that we would rise above political parties, and come together once a month for a luncheon to discuss issues relevant to the Black community. We had some very outstanding guests speakers, among them Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Before he began his remarks at our luncheon, the great man told us that he usually did not accept invitations to such gatherings, but was so proud of who we were and what we represent for the progress of the race that he decided to be our speaker. Clarence Thomas did not show up. In fact, he never showed up. So years later when he was elevated to the Supreme Court, I spoke out that he was not a Black man filling the shoes of another Black man. But now as I look back, I was wrong. Clarence Thomas is a Black man who has experienced the same economic and social oppressions that we all did before the Civil Rights Movement. Just because he responded to that oppression differently than most of us, cannot negate the fact that he comes right out of our culture.


That brings me to Dr. Ben Carson.  The Black liberal community will not support Dr. Carson’s bid to be president. His politics are different from most of us.  But just because he does not share the majority of Black America’s proposed remedies for the problems plaguing our communities, does not mean he is a sell-out. And because he does not agree with us politically is no reason to jettison him out of our culture. Liberals and Democrats do not have a premium on what is acceptable as part of Black America. We are much more than just Al Sharpton, the NAACP, the Urban League, the thousands of Black ministers, the Nation of Islam and all the other organizations that lay claim to be the gatekeepers of our people.

Dr. Carson’s history in this country mirrors most Black Americans. He certainly does with me. I am familiar with the projects in Detroit where Dr. Carson grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s. And I am familiar with the east side of Detroit and Hastings Street. As a young boy growing up in Saginaw, Michigan, I would visit my uncles attending Wayne State University at the time. They lived on the east side and I have memories of hearing the blues coming out of the night clubs, the smell of barbeque, the pawn shops, the liquor stores and the churches. I’m sure those are the same memories that Dr. Carson has of that section of the city.

Dr. Carson’s roots are in rural Georgia, home of both his parents but he was born and raised in Detroit. My roots are in rural Arkansas, where my mother was born about the same time as Dr. Carson’s parents. But like Dr. Carson I was born and raised in Saginaw. I imagine that our parents were all part of the great migration North during the first half of the 20th Century.

My point being that one’s political and ideological leanings are a minor part of one’s cultural identity. Culture reflects the cumulative history of a people. Dr. Carson and Clarence Thomas are products of that history, a commonality shared by all Blacks born in this country. Because of his conservative views and because he is running for president in the Republican primary, I would find it very difficult to support him if he made it to the general election. But if for a moment, we could block out his conservative views and imagine him as a liberal Democrat, wouldn’t he make the ideal candidate for Black America to support going into the election.