U.S. Supreme Court

Thomas Has Quiet Influence

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a little-noticed concurring opinion in last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down two public-school integration plans.

The opinion indicates how Thomas’ views on affirmative action are radically different from the court’s prior black justice, Thurgood Marshall, Tony Mauro writes in an opinion column for USA Today. It also shows Thomas’ influence, since his “disdain for affirmative action, and his skepticism about the value of integrated schools, carried the day,” Mauro says.

Thomas doesn’t believe that integration necessarily provides the best education. His concurring opinion cites studies showing that “black students attending historically black colleges achieve better academic results than those attending predominantly white colleges.”

Thomas believes that favoring lesser-qualified minorities over whites can do more harm than good. “So-called ‘benign’ discrimination teaches many that because of chronic and apparently immutable handicaps, minorities cannot compete with them without their patronizing indulgence,” he wrote in a 1995 case.

Marshall influenced his fellow justices by recounting tales of how he personally suffered from discrimination. Thomas’ viewpoint is shaped by his childhood, when he was raised by a stern father who required him to work hard and offered no favors.

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