Journal of Education & Social Policy

ISSN 2375-0782 (Print) 2375-0790 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/jesp

‘Beware of Elites Bearing Theories’: Clarence Thomas on Race and Education
William S. New, Michael S. Merry

No matter one's political loyalties, it seems worthwhile to take seriously Clarence Thomas’s ideas about education because over the past twenty-five years most have acquired the force of law. This article explains Thomas’ views on the legitimacy and efficacy of affirmative action as a remedy to educational segregation. It also addresses his views on integration/segregation and diversity, the developments of which are intimately tied to affirmative action. Each is related to ever-shifting definitions and deployments of the notion of colorblindness. Understanding Clarence Thomas with respect to education requires an examination of his biography, as paradigmatic of many black male experiences in the second half of the 20th century. The article argues that it is unproductive to claim that Thomas’ conservatism in the realm of racial politics is either irrational or exceptional. That does not equate, however, to championing Thomas’ positions on affirmative action, diversity, and integration.

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