The 9th Annual Toys for Tots Golf Tournament

THE CAPITOL CONNECTION: Justice Thomas ought to know better


MY GRANDDAUGHTER, HANA, just celebrated her fifth birthday. Can you remember when you were five?

This turned out to be a great birthday party. Lots of people came and we all went swimming and it was wonderful to see parents and children of all ages speaking and interacting with one another after such a long stretch of isolation.

The parents of Hana’s friends and our other guests know I’m a political scientist and they had a lot to say about the state of the country and its politics. Much of the talk concerned the Supreme Court of the United States which, as we know, has been issuing rulings that directly affect each of us.

We all know by now that a Supreme Court judge named Clarence Thomas has been making rulings that affect over 51 percent of the country, namely women. Thomas is exactly what our contemporary political ideology is all about. He is a Black man, but he represents the conservative ideology in this country. I worry about that and specifically, I worry about our little Hana and her future in this country and world. Women have always been treated as second class citizens and despite some progress, they are not where they ought to be. We have a long way to go and much work to do before things even out.

Both the men and women I know are very concerned about women’s rights. It turns out that when it comes to the rights ostensibly afforded to all of us, the rights of women are slipping. What a slap in the face this is. Don’t get me wrong, some things have changed from the time a woman needed her husband’s permission to open a bank account or buy a car but in other ways, women’s equality has been set back 50 years. I sure hope our grandchildren don’t have to face the challenges today’s young women must face.

Justice Thomas’ recent opinions indicate to me that he really ought to know better. This just proves that if you are looking for a person to carry an intolerable message as in “some folks are better than others,” there will always be someone available. Just look at Thomas. He’s making damned fools of all of us who believed a person of color on the Supreme Court might be willing to strike a blow for different kinds of equality. That’s nonsense, of course, since we all know that certain kinds of inequality are systemic in our society and some things never change. Those who lack money and power will continue to take a back seat to those who have them. A disproportionate number of people of color will start out in life lacking the resources that might afford them the chance to actually even the playing field. We have a long way to go to raise fairness to an appropriate level in this country. Before the Civil War, there was no question about the need for equality in this country. In some ways, not much has changed. we face many of the same challenges today.

Clarence Thomas’ opinion is just one example of how lopsided things can get in this country. We all know about the importance of money in our society. We are judged by how much we have. The college that you attend also matters when it comes to how you are evaluated. I went to Hunter College in the Bronx, now Lehman college. I was incredibly fortunate in that my education there was free. Think about it—education offers us one of the rare opportunities to potentially advance ourselves through life, from birth to adulthood. In this incredibly competitive world, it might just be the one thing that provides an advantage.

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