(May 19) Now all the world can see the progression and depth of the intellectual and philosophical convictions of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Far from personifying the leftist caricature of him as an “insanely self-loathing” black man, Thomas is a proud, thoughtful man of personal integrity.

One of the great achievements of director Michael Pack’s excellent documentary on Thomas, which aired on PBS May 18, is that it shows how Thomas’s convictions developed into an analytical construct that is both logical and consistent. Far from showing that Thomas is willfully blind to racism, the film shows how strongly he has felt it and combated it.

At great length, one sees how Thomas’s outlook is built on a foundation, built by his grandfather, of strong self-discipline, a hyper-rigorous work ethic, a respect for education, and a devout Catholic faith. To that was added the love of (not just respect for) learning instilled by Catholic nuns.

But one also sees Thomas describe his internal anger building against abject poverty, racial slights and racism expressed even in the Catholic seminary he attended for nearly four years, and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.


That anger and black pride sent Thomas into the “black power” movement as he enrolled at Holy Cross College. One sees him describe and reaffirm the loathing for racism that he felt then and still feels today. Yet, his grandfather’s respect for order and discipline (along with the love of country exhibited by his brother, who served in Vietnam) led him to be appalled with himself when one of the protests he joined turned into a “full-scale riot.”

Thomas’s churchgoing background also played a role. As he wrote in his autobiography, in words he repeated nearly verbatim in the documentary, “I had let myself be swept up by an angry mob for no good reason other than that I, too, was angry. On my way to breakfast, I stopped in front of the chapel and prayed for the first time in nearly two years. I promised Almighty God that if he would purge my heart of anger, I would never hate again.”…

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