16 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2003
This Essay examines Clarence Thomas's opinions in education cases, extracting from them themes of black nationalism and strict individualism. These themes are in some tension with each other. I use a similar tension exhibited in two controversies over editorials W.E.B. Du Bois wrote for the NAACP magazine The Crisis as a way of exploring whether the tension can be reconciled. I argue that much of the tension can be resolved by treating black nationalism either as a choice made by African Americans as individuals or as a second-best strategy for strengthening the black community when its members lack effective choice in education. Some tension in Justice Thomas's opinions remains, however, and I suggest that the residual tension derives from Justice Thomas's personal experience in being regarded by dominant legal elites as unqualified for the position he holds.
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