From Whitney Houston to Obergefell: Clarence Thomas on Human Dignity

Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas:

What she remembered most vividly, however, was the way [Clarence] Thomas woke up each morning. He had a theme song which he would play at high volume in his room at the start of every day, “kind of like a mantra.”

“What’s that?” she remembered asking [Gil] Hardy [Clarence Thomas’s roommate] when she was first rocked out of bed by it at an early hour.

“Oh, that’s just Clarence,” Hardy replied with a laugh. “It’s his theme song.” The song, “The Greatest Love of All,” was a pop anthem celebrating self-love rereleased by Whitney Houston.

Clarence Thomas, My Grandfather’s Son:

I’d heard the song many times, but it had never meant more to me than it did now…I took heart from George Benson [who originally performed the song]: …No matter what they take from me/ They can’t take away my dignity.

Clarence Thomas, Obergefell v. Hodges, dissenting:

The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.




  1. jonnybutter June 29, 2015 at 4:01 pm | #

    omfg, you have made my day.

  2. John Maher June 29, 2015 at 4:06 pm | #

    Amazing. Obviously the social construct of the neoliberal state is a removal of even any memory of a concept of dignity. When will these boomers finally die off and allow better theory to construct the culture in which we exist?

    • LFC June 29, 2015 at 11:22 pm | #

      Oh right of course, it’s a generational thing. This comment, imo, is both obtuse and insulting. One might as well write a comment asking when will people born after 1964 (i.e., post ‘baby boom’) finally die off and allow better theory to construct, etc. When will all Millennials etc.? Clearly all 25 – 30 yr olds are interesting in nothing but their solipsistic gadgets. [Btw, I’ve never heard Whitney Houston’s “pop anthem celebrating self-love” (and I’m not planning to listen to it).]

  3. Steve June 29, 2015 at 4:06 pm | #

    Sounds like Sartre on freedom.

  4. Joel in Oakland June 29, 2015 at 4:57 pm | #

    Anyone know what CT thinks *does* bestow and maintain “dignity”, not to mention just what he thinks the word means?

  5. Benjamin David Steele June 29, 2015 at 7:10 pm | #

    The hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis killed by the US invasion and occupation didn’t have their dignity taken away from them, just their lives. Governments can do anything without remorse or concern, because nothing a government can do can ultimately have any moral impact on individuals. Government actions are without any fundamental meaning or value. Therefore, governments have no obligation to anyone or anything, not even to the principles they are founded upon. Governments, after all, are inhuman entities and so are irrelevant to all sense of human worth.

  6. Jake July 3, 2015 at 10:23 am | #

    Regardless of her sometimes mediocre performances, “The Greatest Love of All” is absolutely magnificent. Since it was before crack and a reality show, the writing and her voice are incredible. This is coming from someone whose music catalog is about 85% reggae, punk, indie rock, and hip hop, and never listens to the radio unless it’s NPR. Here’s what I have to say about your comments on generation. Don’t forget Generation X (I admit to being a Carter baby, thus aging myself, but my generation has the potential to change many things, but due to being ignored, we usually just sit in the corner, jaded and completely disappointed at the lies told by our parents that have turned us into the cynics we are today, and is why most people I know my age do not vote.

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