Damon Root on Clarence Thomas, Racism, and American History


Credit: C-SPAN

In Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, Samuel L. Jackson portrays the despicable character of Stephen, the head house slave on a hellish Mississippi plantation. Reviewing the film for The Boston Globe, critic Wesley Morris struggled to convey the villainy of Stephen's character, turning to a present-day comparison for help. "The movie is too modern for what Jackson is doing to be limited to 1858," Morris wrote. "He's conjuring the house Negro, yes, but playing him as though he were Clarence Thomas."

It was not the first time a liberal writer had taken a cheap shot at the conservative Supreme Court justice, writes Damon Root, but the comparison to the slave power system was particularly contemptible, especially because no Supreme Court justice since Thurgood Marshall has written more frequently or powerfully about American racism than Clarence Thomas.