Justice Clarence Thomas Defends All Black Schools: ‘My High School Was Not Inferior’

May 1, 2013 - 5:07 PM

Clarence Thomas

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas defended all-black schools during a recent discussion at Duquesne University Law School in Pittsburgh, saying one cannot assume something is “inferior” because it is “predominantly one group or another.”

“My high school was not inferior. My neighborhood was not inferior. My church was not inferior. My family was not inferior. I have never believed it, and I never will,” Thomas, the second African-American to serve on the high court, said during a discussion on April 9.

“One thing Justice you wrote later in a case called Jenkins that I’d like you to comment on is you said you wrote, ‘It never ceases to amaze me that the courts are so willing to assume that anything that is all black must be inferior.’ Would you comment on that?” Thomas was asked.

In the 1995 case of Missouri v. Jenkins, the Supreme Court ruled that a District Court exceeded its authority by requiring Missouri to correct racial inequality in schools through salary increases and continued funding of remedial education programs.

Thomas said he didn’t believe the notion that anything that was all black was inferior, noting his own upbringing in the small black community of Pin Point, Ga.

“Well I think it speaks for itself. It’s true,” the Supreme Court justice said when asked about his comments regarding Missouri v Jenkins. “Our schools were closed, because people said they weren’t as good, because they were all black. I didn’t believe any of that stuff.

“I went to all black schools. I lived in all black neighborhoods. I had a wonderful life in those neighborhoods,” he said.

“People think you’re making it up, ‘Oh, you’re trying to paint the South in a way it wasn’t,’ because they have a narrative,” Thomas said.

“I was moving back home when I stopped in D.C., so with all my confusion, I still wanted to get back. My high school was not inferior. My neighborhood was not inferior. My church was not inferior. My family was not inferior. I have never believed it, and I never will,” Thomas said.

“And I don’t think you need to start from the premise that if something is predominantly one group or another that you can make these broad assumptions about whether or not it is inferior,” he added.

Thomas noted that the university that produces the largest number of black doctors and blacks going to medical school is Xavier University, a historically black college in Louisiana.

Thomas was asked whether attending a historically black college was on his “radar screen” when he left the seminary. In high school, Thomas transferred to the St. John Vianney Minor Seminary, the first step in becoming a Catholic priest. After graduation, he continued his studies at the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Missouri.

Thomas described how he was planning to go to a black school after leaving the seminary, fueled by anger about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in 1968.

“Yes, I was done with all white schools. … I was angry. I mean it was 1968. Dr. King had just been assassinated, and I was done with it, and I understand people’s reaction when they’re angry. I was angry, and I got home, and my grandfather being my grandfather kicked me out of the house. So the only school I applied to by then was Holy Cross,” Thomas said.

He explained that the reason he ended up at Holy Cross College in Massachusetts was because he applied out of respect for his chemistry teacher, Sister Mary Carmine, and got accepted.

“The reason I got accepted is because I had almost a straight A average, and then the mythmakers came up with this thing I was recruited. I was not recruited,” Thomas said, calling it “serendipity” that he ended up at Holy Cross.

“Holy Cross saved me. I was going to go to Savannah State College,” he said.