Invisible Man: The Black Nationalism of Clarence Thomas's Jurisprudence

Corey Robin, Brooklyn College

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 4:30pm
301 Marx Hall
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LAPA’s seminar format assumes that seminar participants have familiarized themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator opens the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.

From Professor Robin: A little known fact about Clarence Thomas is that during the formative period of his life, from 1968 to 1975, he was a black nationalist on the left. In this paper, I show that despite his right turn in the 1970s, Thomas never gave up his black nationalism. The fundamental ideas he formed about race and racism on the black nationalist left continue to structure his jurisprudence from the right. While that's true of his jurisprudence on issues ranging from the Second Amendment to the Takings Clause, I focus here on his opinions about affirmative action and desegregation, showing that his positions on those questions bear little resemblance to either conventional conservatism or liberalism.

Corey Robin
Professor, Political Science
Brooklyn College

Corey Robin is a professor of political science at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center. He is the author of The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Donald Trump—hailed by The New Yorker as “the book that predicted Trump”—and Fear: The History of a Political Idea, which won the Best First Book in Political Theory Award from the American Political Science Association. His essays and reviews have appeared in many outlets, including The New York Times, Harper’s, The New Republic, and The London Review of Books. His books and writings have been translated into over ten languages. Robin has received many grants and awards, including fellowships from the Russell Sage Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies and Princeton University’s Center for Human Values. In 2018-19, he will be a fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, completing an intellectual biography of Clarence Thomas. Robin has been the subject of profiles in the The New York Times (“the quintessential public intellectual for the digital age”), the Chronicle of Higher Education (“one of academe’s most persistent brawlers”), and Tablet (“a Sartre for the social-media age”). He has appeared on NPR, MSNBC, and other media outlets.

Amna Akbar
2018-2019 LAPA Fellow; Moritz College of Law, The Ohio State University

Amna Akbar studies policing and social movements. Her scholarship explores the intersections of national security and criminal law, and the potential of social movements to transform our thinking about law, law enforcement, and law reform.  Her articles have appeared or are forthcoming in NYU Law ReviewUCLA Law ReviewUC Irvine Law ReviewMichigan State Law ReviewNOMOSCitizenship Studies, the Journal of Legal Education, and The Nation.  She received her B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University, and her J.D. from the University of Michigan, where she served as editor-in-chief of the Michigan Law Review.  After law school, she clerked for Judge Gerard E. Lynch in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and worked as a staff attorney at Queens Legal Service Corp., part of Legal Services NYC, in a community-based battered women’s project.  She currently serves on the advisory board of Law for Black Lives.  At LAPA she will continue her study of contemporary racial justice movements with anti-capitalist commitments. In particular, she will focus on these movements’ analytic frameworks – which forward a critique of the United States rooted in the global history and contemporary realities of people of color, and a radical vision for a new tomorrow – and how they challenge and expand thinking on race, law, and law reform.