As opinions differ, so do role models

Lori Cruz, Editorial Director

He managed his high school yearbook and wrote for the school paper. He graduated cum laude from Yale Law School. He is the 106th associate justice on the highest court in the land. He is a black man and yet, in honor of Black History Month, he has been called an “inappropriate role model for black youths,” by the Maryland chapter of the NAACP.

Justice Clarence Thomas has been publicly lynched by members of his own race from the get go. But all their and supposed sexual harassment victim Anita Hill’s hard work did not stop him from obtaining a seat on the Court.

Yes, his opinions may differ from those of some leaders involved in the NAACP, but that does not automatically condemn him to being “inappropriate.” By the way, by whose standards does the NAACP reserve the right to say who is appropriate or inappropriate in their role modeling? Do the standards of their efforts differ from those of other law-abiding, courageous, self-determined individuals?

The constant backlash that surrounds Justice Thomas is unprecedented and uncalled for. Is it because he is a conservative? If so, why are Colin Powell, Rep. J.C. Watts and Charles Barkley not ridiculed by the public? Is it because of Anita Hill? If that is the argument, since when does character mean anything?

No, it is because Thomas, in a sense, replaced former NAACP lawyer and loyalist Thurgood Marshall, as the sole black on the court, and it has been expected that because of the color of his skin, he must think like his predecessor.

Since Marshall left the bench, it must have been understood that the next black man on the court would share his views. But the next man did not. And why should he? Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, both women with strong opinions, have diametrically opposed views.

No one has challenged former Chief Justice Earl Warren’s views because they differ from those of Chief Justice William Renquist.

The purpose of the Supreme Court is not to establish laws, based on their personal views, but to interpret laws and make sure that the values set forth in the Constitution are respected. It is not the place for any justice to advance any political agenda, whether it be the NAACP’s or the NRA’s. Clarence Thomas is not a politician and should not be subjected to administer any groups political agenda.

The African-American Encyclopedia said Thomas is a “believer in a color-blind society” who does not believe the courts should solve the “social problems that should be handled by the legislative or executive branches.”

Thomas’s religious convictions have been central throughout his life. He has said in his household that “God was central. School, discipline, hard work and knowing right from wrong were of the highest priority.”

Does this sound like a man who is capable of being an “inappropriate role model?” Although Thomas has sided more conservatively, he refuses to discuss his views on such hotly debated issues such as abortion and affirmative action because they would “compromise his impartiality as a judge,” he has said.

If diversity is to be embraced, differing views must be a catalyst for conversation and debate. The Supreme Court definitely leans to the right these days, but has not always. The Court tries to refrain from making sweeping laws that would change the overall fabric of this country. One man, one Clarence Thomas, will not bring down all the work of black groups such as the NAACP as they fear, just as one chapter of the NAACP will not harm the integrity, convictions or work ethic of Justice Clarence Thomas.

Lori Cruz, a senior political science major, is editorial director of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at

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