An Open Letter to Bill Cosby On Clarence Thomas, by Darryn “Dutch” Martin

Dutch Martin

An Open Letter to Bill Cosby On Clarence Thomas

by Darryn “Dutch” Martin (bio)

Dear Dr. Cosby:

I’ve always been a huge fan of your work as an entertainer, philanthropist, family man and example of what can be accomplished with hard work, sacrifice and a love of learning.

I supported your crusade to encourage low-income blacks to stop being victims and take responsibility for their own lives.  Your message emphasizing parental responsibility rings truer now than ever before.  I also recently rushed out to buy the new book you co-authored with Dr. Alvin Pousssaint, Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors.

Having said all this, I am deeply disappointed by your remarks about U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas on a recent edition of CNN’s “Larry King Live.”  In particular, the following exchange makes me regret my purchase and clouds any future support of you:

LARRY KING: Judge Clarence Thomas, the conservative black judge on the United States Supreme Court, Bill, says that he went conservative because he thinks that the black responsibility is to himself.  He doesn’t need any help.  He doesn’t want any help.  He doesn’t need that pick me up.

BILL COSBY: And he doesn’t want to help anybody.

KING: He doesn’t need affirmative action.

COSBY: And he doesn’t want to help anybody.

ALVIN POUSSAINT: But he got affirmative action.

KING: He got affirmative action.

COSBY: Plenty of – he got a whole lot of help and now he doesn’t want to help anybody.

KING: Do you think he’s hypocritical?

COSBY: He doesn’t want to help anybody.

KING: I know it.  Do you think he’s…

COSBY: He doesn’t want to help anybody.

KING: All right.  But he says blacks don’t need help, they can do it themselves.  And that’s partially what you’re saying, isn’t it?

COSBY: Well, that’s not – yes, see partially is where you get into trouble if you’re trying to put me in the room with Clarence Thomas, the brother lite.

In demeaning Justice Thomas, you were basically repeating the same ad hominem attacks that his critics have been throwing at him (without a shred of evidence) for years: that Justice Thomas benefited from affirmative action and later “yanked the ladder up with him” to prevent other blacks from benefiting.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Do you know anything about those whom Justice Thomas has helped over the years?  What makes you and Dr. Poussaint think that Justice Thomas needed affirmative action to get into Holy Cross College and Yale Law School?  After all, he did graduate from Holy Cross with honors.  If you read Justice Thomas’s just-published memoir, My Grandfather’s Son, you would realize that:

  • the effect affirmative action had on his career prospects after law school was anything but beneficial;
  • by insulting him, you are mimicking all the same old racist stereotypes that black people can’t compete unless they’re give a “leg up” based on their race.

You would also discover another fact about this fine man that his critics have always gotten wrong.  While working as assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education and subsequently as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Justice Thomas did everything in his power to help blacks with legitimate problems.  More specifically, he realized, and tried to convince others that, big-government policies such as affirmative action, welfare and school busing were actually doing considerably more harm than good.

Almost as soon as he spoke out on such things, however, Justice Thomas was accused of “blaming the victim” and attacked and shouted down as an “Uncle Tom” and a “sellout.”  Blacks had ingested too much of the rhetoric fed to them by liberal politicians and their operatives within the civil rights establishment and from the mainstream media.  Justice Thomas was basically in a no-win situation and he knew it.

By attacking Justice Thomas, Dr. Cosby, you did basically the same thing that was done to you three years ago after your speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.  It is particularly ironic given the fact that, given the problems plaguing low-income blacks and what needs to be done about them, you and Justice Thomas basically see eye-to-eye.

You have the right to disagree with Justice Thomas on the law, ideology, public policy or any other issue.  But I consider your dismissive and demeaning comments about this fine American are completely unwarranted.  In my humble opinion, you owe Justice Thomas an apology, and – for what it’s worth – I do not plan on reading your book until you do so.


Dutch Martin

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Darryn “Dutch” Martin is a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network.  Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21 or the National Center for Public Policy Research.

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