Clarence Thomas Says We're Talking About Race Too Much Nowadays

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 11 2014 4:58 PM

Slatest PM: Clarence Thomas Says We All Talk About Race Too Much Nowadays

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas testifies during a hearing before the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee April 15, 2010 on Capitol Hill

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Thomas on Race: Yahoo News: "Americans today are too sensitive about race, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told a gathering of college students in Florida on Tuesday. Speaking at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Fla., Thomasthe second black justice to serve on the court, lamented what he considers a society that is more 'conscious' of racial differences than it was when he grew up in segregated Georgia in the days before — and during — the civil rights era. 'My sadness is that we are probably today more race and difference-conscious than I was in the 1960s when I went to school. To my knowledge, I was the first black kid in Savannah, Georgia, to go to a white school. Rarely did the issue of race come up,' Thomas said during a chapel service hosted by the nondenominational Christian university. 'Now, name a day it doesn’t come up. Differences in race, differences in sex, somebody doesn’t look at you right, somebody says something. Everybody is sensitive. If I had been as sensitive as that in the 1960s, I’d still be in Savannah. Every person in this room has endured a slight. Every person. Somebody has said something that has hurt their feelings or did something to them — left them out.'"

More From Thomas: "The worst I have been treated was by northern liberal elites. The absolute worst I have ever been treated," he said. "The worst things that have been done to me, the worst things that have been said about me, by northern liberal elites, not by the people of Savannah, Georgia."

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Counterpoint: New York's Jonathan Chait: "Right. But maybe the reason race came up so rarely was not that the racial situation was better in 1960s Georgia. Maybe the reason race came up rarely is that the racial situation in 1960s Georgia was extremely terrible. For instance, for the first 14 years of Thomas's life, Georgia had zero African-Americans in its state legislature. Majority-black Terrell had a total of five registered black voters — possibly because African-Americans were so satisfied with their treatment that they didn't see any reason to vote, or possibly because civil-rights activists in Georgia tended to get assassinated. So maybe 'reluctance to bring up racial issues' is not, in fact, the best measure of a society's racial health."

It's Tuesday, February 11th, welcome to the Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees, and the whole team at @Slatest.

On Second Thought: New York Times: "Facing a rebellion over his latest debt ceiling proposal, Speaker John A. Boehner on Tuesday told House Republicans that he would bring legislation to a vote that would raise the government’s borrowing authority with no strings attached. 'You all know that our members are not crazy about voting to increase the debt ceiling,' Mr. Boehner said, explaining that his conference was frustrated with President Obama’s refusal to negotiate over a debt ceiling increase. 'And so the fact is we’ll let the Democrats put the votes up. We’ll put a minimum number of votes up to get it passed.' Mr. Boehner said the House would vote on Wednesday, but because of approaching snowstorms, House Republicans moved up the vote to Tuesday night, to ensure that all members could get out of town before flights were canceled."

Reality Check: Washington Post: "President Obama on Tuesday called Syria a 'crumbling' state and acknowledged that the United Nations remains 'far from achieving' its goal of returning stability and normalcy to the war-torn nation, but he again ruled out direct U.S. military intervention. Appearing with French President Francois Hollande at a White House news conference, Obama maintained that international pressure on Syria to account for and relinquish its stockpile of chemical weapons has begun to make progress even as the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has missed a series of deadlines. 'Nobody’s going to deny that there’s enormous frustration here,' Obama said. 'Right now we don’t think that there is a military solution per se to the problem. But the situation’s fluid, and we are continuing to explore every possible avenue to solve this problem because it’s not just heartbreaking to see what’s happening to the Syrian people, it’s very dangerous for the region as a whole.'"

RIP Shirley Temple: Los Angeles Times: "Shirley Temple Black, who as the most popular child movie star of all time lifted a filmgoing nation’s spirits during the Depression and then grew up to be a diplomat, has died. She was 85. Black died late Monday at her home in Woodside, Calif., according to publicist Cheryl J. Kagan. No cause was given. From 1935 through 1938, the curly-haired moppet billed as Shirley Temple was the top box-office draw in the nation. ... As she moved into her teens, she literally outgrew the movie business -- audiences would not accept her in more mature roles .... Politics consumed much of her adult life after she married businessman Charlie Black in 1950 and was known as Shirley Temple Black. An active Republican, she ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1967. Two years later, she was appointed the U.S. delegate to the United Nations by President Nixon. From 1974 to 1976, Temple was the U.S. ambassador to the West African nation of Ghana and later served as White House chief of protocol for President Ford. She also was an ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992...."

Southern Snow: Associated Press: "[Atlanta] dodged the first punch of a dangerous winter storm Tuesday, but forecasters warned of a potentially 'catastrophic' second blow in the form of a thick layer of ice that threatened to bring hundreds of thousands of power outages and leave people in their cold, dark homes for days. The streets and highways in metro Atlanta were largely deserted as people in the South's business hub heeded advice from officials to hunker down at home, especially after the epic snow jam two weeks ago that saw thousands of people stranded on icy, gridlocked roads for hours when two inches of snow fell. ... The forecast drew comparisons to an ice storm in the Atlanta area in 2000 that left more than 500,000 homes and businesses without power and an epic storm in 1973 that caused an estimated 200,000 outages for several days. In 2000, damage estimates topped $35 million."

That's all for today. See you back here tomorrow. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.