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Supreme Court

Book: Judge Jackson Said She "Do[esn't] Understand" Justice Thomas

ABCNews unearths an interesting interview with Ketanji Brown Jackson about Justice Clarence Thomas

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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is one of the leading contenders to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court. As ABC News reports, Judge Jackson apparently shared some candid views on one of her potential future colleagues in an interview for the book Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas, by Kevin Merida and Michael Fletcher.

From the ABC News report:

More than two decades before becoming a top contender to be President Joe Biden's Supreme Court nominee, a young Ketanji Brown Jackson sat across from Justice Clarence Thomas, reportedly perplexed by how someone of his background -- not so different from her own -- could have developed such a conservative bent.

"I don't understand you,'" Jackson, who clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer from 1999 to 2000, remembered thinking, according to a 2007 biography of Thomas, "Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas."

"'You sound like my parents. You sound like the people I grew up with.' But the lessons he tended to draw from the experiences of the segregated South seemed to be different than those of everybody I know," the book, by authors Kevin Merida and Michael Fletcher, said Jackson thought as she and Thomas shared lunch.

NEXT: Throw Out All the Canons? [Updated]

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  1. C'mon DaivdBehar!

    Now is the perfect time for you to spew your "Yale-trained evil bastards" rant.

    1. Thank you, Apedad. One could try to explain things to her. However, these Ivy indoctrinated scumbags do not even understand the First Grade vocabulary word, "all." Article I Section 1 gives "all" lawmaking power to the Congress. In First Grade, the concept of all, some, none is covered. If she can grasp that, I would try to explain the reasons why blacks should be Republican conservatives. For example, the Democrat Party enslaved their ancestors. Democrat genocidal maniacs terrorized them after Reconstruction. What about today? A million black babies have been aborted, beyond the wildest fantasies for the cruellest racist genocidal mania KKK member. Then there are 4000 excess muders of young black males each year. That is 100 times more lethal than the 4000 lynchings by the KKK over 100 years. The lynchings, the legal immunities of the lynch mobs, the excess murders are 100% the fault of the Democrat Party and explicit Democrat policy. But, that would be so above her head, as to not be worth the time and effort to explain. She is an Ivy indoctrinated scumbag. That is why I hope Judge Childs is nominated.

      1. That being said, Republicans Senators need to demand a DNA sample of the nominee. If over 50% of the maternal mitochondrial DNA is from the British Isles, the nomination needs to be withdrawn. Then publish the DNA sequence for the judgement of other experts.

    2. Book: Judge Jackson Said She "Do[esn't] Understand" Justice Thomas

      So which is it? "Do" she or "Doesn't" she? Is she is or is she ain't his baby?

      Louis Jordan--Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby?
      https://youtu.be/m7M4thNT_EY

  2. So?

    When you strip away the additional words that are injected into the article to characterize the quote, and the responses of people they are using, the actual quote is neither damning nor surprising.

    She saw someone who had experiences similar to those of people she knew (a slightly older generation- she's 51 and Thomas is 73) growing up, and he took different lessons from those experiences than the people she was familiar with.

    And?

    1. It's one thing to disagree. It's another entirely to not understand. You have to be willfully ignorant with a closed mind to not try to understand someone.

      1. Justice Thomas has a coherent judicial philosophy. Maybe more so than anyone else on the court. If Jackson does not understand it, she is either stupid or willfully blind.

        1. Embrace the healing power of "and."

        2. I have read several criticisms of Justice Thomas that persuasively argued that his decisions sometimes or even often seem to be result-driven, idiosyncratic, or incongruent rather than coherent, principled, or congruent. Do you sense or contend Justice Thomas' philosophy (reasoning) or decisions are unusually coherent?

          1. According to your logic, that would make you a backwards racist.

      2. It is one thing to try to understand and another to understand. Some things are inexplicable.

    2. Yeah. It's an interesting quote, but nothing more. It's like if two people came out of World War 2 and one of them decided the lesson was that America needed to stand up to wrongdoers and the other one decided that pacifism and the avoidance of war were the highest ideal.

      One might not understand the other. Just a matter of perspective.

      1. Excellent example. People who find something to complain about this observation by her are *really* hunting for things to complain about. It seems totally innocuous, and, at worst, an example of how the English language is flexible. It's not like she said this in a deposition, under oath, and her response was followed up, with a question like, "Wait; when you said that you did not understand him in this aspect, did you really mean that there is literally no explanation that you can come up with? Or, did you mean it colloquially, to mean, 'Boy, I am surprised or shocked that someone like you, with your background and experience, could have ended up where you are, in terms of your ideology or judicial approach.' "

        I suspect that the latter is the accurate one, it's the only that 99.5% of listeners would have automatically assumed, etc.. (On the other hand, I have no problem at all with her being questioned about this, if she were to be nominated...a person ought to be able to defend past statements, of course.)

      2. When I meet someone who defies my expectations, I assume positive intent and I realize that there must be something that I don't know.

    3. And it implies a lack of empathy. A failure to recognize that people can have different reactions to the same events and still be fundamentally good people. To be blunt, it implies a degree of narrow-minded bigotry that 'only my experiences can be the right experiences'.

      Those implications would be undercut if the quotes went beyond "I was surprised" to "and now I do understand". But that's not what happened. At least based on what's reported above, we have something closer to "I was surprised and I refuse to understand".

      1. To quote the upcoming Jordan Peele movie, NOPE.

        Look, you can be as ungenerous as you want to be. I have a feeling you will be anyway. Words don't matter. But all that exists within the little bit of the quote is an expression of surprise at that moment- there's not even a followup regarding whether her opinion evolved after that.

        Heck, there isn't even a normative statement that she disagreed with his opinions or found them wrong or "bad," just that she found then inexplicable based on her prior experience and his similarity to people she knew. Again, so?

  3. More like "Judge Jackson doesn't understand".

  4. "a young Ketanji Brown Jackson sat across from Justice Clarence Thomas, reportedly perplexed by how someone of his background -- not so different from her own -- could have developed such a conservative bent."

    She was born in 1970 to a Lawyer and a Magnet School principal --two college graduates-- and grew up in Maimi.

    Clarance Thomas was born in 1948 in rural Georgia to a farm worker and a domestic worker and spoke Gullah as his native language. They didn't have indoor plumbing until their house burned down and he moved in with his grandparents.

    1. I mean, it's bizarre for someone to be unable to understand how someone with a similar background might develop views that you disagree with, but it's a huge red flag that she thinks she has a similar background to Clarance Thomas.

      Not really someone you want to be a judge.

      1. It sounds to me as if she was comparing Thomas' background to that of her parents. It was ABC, not Jackson, who compared Thomas' background to her own.

        But of course you would conclude "Not really someone you want to be a judge," pretty quickly for any Biden nominee.

        1. It sounds to me as if she was comparing Thomas' background to that of her parents. It was ABC, not Jackson, who compared Thomas' background to her own.

          True - and very daft it is.

          But what she actually says*appears pretty daft too :

          "'You sound like my parents. You sound like the people I grew up with.'

          The people I grew up with sounds like the people she rubbed shoulders with when she was growing up. Assuming she wasn't a recluse, that would not be limited to her parents. It would be her "circle".

          But wait.....

          But the lessons he tended to draw from the experiences of the segregated South seemed to be different than those of everybody I know,"

          ?!!? So he drew lessons "different than those of everybody I know" - even though "the people I grew up with" sound like her parents and Uncle Clarence. This looks like a direct contradiction - though there is an escape - "everybody I know" might mean the people I know now ie as a 29-30 year old law clerk, steeped for dozen years in the far left politics of racial misanthropy, whereas "the people I grew up with" may mean the kids in high school, not as yet so steeped.

          *But perhaps, this is the solution to the mystery :

          the book, by authors Kevin Merida and Michael Fletcher, said Jackson thought as she and Thomas shared lunch.

          Perhaps this stylised racial position taking, which turns out to be deeply confused (and obviously so - how could she be surprised that Thomas, who is old enough to be her father, might have similar attitudes to her....father ?) is not the work of a highly trained legal mind, but merely the invention of a couple of lefty journo hacks ?

          The generous interpretation is that this weird and confused posturing, is the weird and confused posturing of the wordsmiths Merida and Fletcher, and has nothing to do with KBJ, as she must now be known.

          1. The generous interpretation is that this weird and confused posturing, is the weird and confused posturing of the wordsmiths Merida and Fletcher, and has nothing to do with KBJ, as she must now be known.

            The even more generous interpretation is that you have completely misunderstood the statement, "You sound like my parents." She obviously was not suggesting that he has the same views as her parents. She meant it literally.

          2. You figure liberals and Democrats are our society's racist misanthropes, you bigoted, obsolete, disaffected right-wing culture war casualty?

            Thank goodness your stale, ugly thinking is being replaced by better people in modern, improving America.

      2. " Not really someone you want to be a judge. "

        If she is someone a Republican doesn't want to be a judge, it is likely she is White, backward, superstitious, bigoted (or, at least, bigot-curious), and male (from the evidence established by nominations and votes).

        1. If you say so.

    2. Privileged people don’t have to try to understand, so often they don’t. Saying she doesn’t understanding is a class membership signal.

      1. It is difficult, if not impossible, to reason with bigotry, superstition, or belligerent ignorance. One might say it is difficult -- perhaps, for some, impossible -- to understand bigots, religious zealots, or the belligerently ignorance.

      2. Privileged people

        Dude.

  5. I tend to agree this is making a mountain out of a molehill. Judge Brown was saying she didn’t understand how a person with experiences very similar to those of her parents and their social circle ended up with completely different views. How did he come to get the philosophy he espoused?

    That’s very different from saying she doesn’t understand those views.

    We are nearing a world where the blades are getting so sharp thst anyone who asks an open-ended, I’m trying-to-understanf-your-position type question risks getting labled ignorant and stupid.

    St. Thomas Aquinas was famously nicknamed “The Dumb Ox.” As a student, instead of immediately responding with to what others said with some ingenious-sounding wisecrack, he would stop to think about. His classmates, used to discussions being debates full of sharp retorts, perceived this habit as a sign of stupidity. Let’s just say it wasn’t.

    Admitting one doesn’t understand can be a sign, not of stupidity, but of openness to learn.

    And that Aquinas-like characteristic is by no means a bad character trait for a judge to have.

    Obviously many people will disagree with Judge Brown’s views. I’m one of them. But let’s not be too quick with the impulse to character-assassinate those we disagree with.

    1. If she doesn't understand how Justice Thomas could end up with the philosophy he has, she should probably read a biography of him. His grandfather was a huge influence on him, and instilled in young Clarence Thomas the virtues of hard work and self-determination. What were her parents' early lives like?

      1. Why read something about an individual when critical race theory teaches us all we need to know simply by looking at the color of their skin and sexual orientation?

        1. I like the fact that this White, male, right-wing blog attracts so many disaffected bigots. This is more evidence the culture war will continue along its familiar, glorious trajectory.

          1. So mocking critical race theory = bigotry. Got it.

    2. "I tend to agree this is making a mountain out of a molehill."

      This isn't even a molehill. This is making a mountain out of two pebbles and a pinch of sand.

    3. Well it's one thing to ask questions when the answers are not easily found. However, in the case of Thomas, whose life is an open book, her asking the question could venture into the realm of Sealioning, a problem endemic on the non-Volokh end of Reason:

      Sealioning--Wikipedia
      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sealioning

  6. ...a young Ketanji Brown Jackson sat across from Justice Clarence Thomas, reportedly perplexed by how someone of his background -- not so different from her own -- could have developed such a conservative bent.

    Their life backgrounds are very different. That throwaway sentence fragment is just ABC News puffery. And the hell of it is, neither Judge Brown-Jackson nor Justice Thomas need puffery of any kind. Their judicial records speak for themselves.

    1. neither Judge Brown-Jackson nor Justice Thomas need puffery of any kind

      But man, some people on here are itching for some SCOTUS drama, anything will do.

  7. Leftists really lack any type of self awareness. They think there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying something that boils down to, "this black person doesn't act like they are told to...something must be broken with them...."

    1. Leftists lack self-awareness.

      Right-wingers are superstitious, downscale, backwater bigots.

      Where is the future for America?

      (Hint: The future will resemble the most recent half-century, with even more progress, education, science, reason, tolerance, inclusiveness, and modernity (and, correspondingly, even less backwardness, ignorance, bigotry, superstition, and insularity).

      1. "Leftists lack self-awareness"

        Almost as if summoned, Arthur with a comment about bigots.

      2. Don't forget to flourish your cape in front of your lawyer buddies, like you do with the rest of us rabble. 😉

  8. Pauline Kael lives
    - How can he win
    - Nobody I know voted for Nixon

    1. Not what she said

  9. Whether it's KBJ talking, or ABC or the authors of the book, it's fairly safe to assume that whoever it is, is likely to be a big supporter of the notion of "diversity" - ie we need some racial quotas, racial consideration, racial whatev (and sex/gender/etc quotas) because humans cannot imagine the "lived experience" of people with different skin color, reproductive plumbing etc. Thus actual live avatars are required in all relevant slots to represent their group.

    This story somewhat muddies the waters on the theory. Thomas is black. KBJ is black. But somehow they don't incarnate the same attitudes. KBJ and her parents, ditto. Is age another vector of privilege that needs to be represented ? But what if some black folk of KBJ's age think like Clarence ?

  10. Donkey braying at a lion.

    1. Racism!!!
      (I'm only kidding, of course. But plenty of people would intentionally misinterpret this not-at-all-racist comment. The country is overrun with highly dishonest, noxious people!)

  11. Only a white racist could understand how Thomas could trivialize and cheapen the word “lynching”. The rest of us genuinely don’t understand him, which is not surprising.

    1. The Volokh Conspirators and their carefully cultivated collection of conservative commenters are not going to like that one.

    2. Only a white racist could understand how Thomas could trivialize and cheapen the word “lynching”. The rest of us genuinely don’t understand him, which is not surprising.

      It's never surprising when you don't understand something.

      1. Why don’t you explain it to me then? Why did he cheapen that ugly history?

        1. When Robert Bork's nomination to SCOTUS was rejected, he remained a lifetime appointee to the District of Columbia Circuit. When Clement Haynesworth's nomination was rejected, he remained on the Fourth Circuit. Neither of these men complained of having been lynched.

          If Clarence Uncle Thomas's nomination had been defeated, he would have remained as a judge for life on the D.C. Circuit. Nice work if you can get it. That prospect was hardly a lynching. Thomas's reckless metaphor trivialized the horror that real lynching victims suffered.

    3. I meant to direct that to Rev. Artie.

  12. I enjoy the usual band of idiots pretending they’ve never heard this or similar colloquial rhetoric before just so they can pretend that she’s an idiot. “I don’t understand you” doesn’t mean a person is incapable of understanding any more than “What are you talking about” means the person doesn’t comprehend the words used by another, or “You can’t be this stupid” means the person isn’t aware of just how stupid the other person is.

  13. Perhaps her response to Thomas comes from an unconscious bias--a black man should think "xx." If he doesn't think the way I expect he should, there is something wrong with him/I don't understand how he can think that.

    Some say we all approach life with our unconscious biases. Others say only you have unconscious biases, I'm too enlightened for that to apply to me.

  14. Don't forget to flourish your cape in front of your lawyer buddies, like you do with the rest of us rabble. 😉

    1. Oops. This is what I meant for Rev. Artie.

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