I saw the movie “Marshall” on the first day of its widespread release and was assaulted with impressions. I went to a matinee in a dying mall in West Orlando where audiences tend to be mostly black. There were maybe thirty people at this showing, mostly in their 50’s and older, people likely familiar with Marshall at least as a Supreme Court Justice if nothing else.
The movie itself was very entertaining, humorous in parts and revolved around a real trial in Bridgeport, CT where a black man was accused of the rape of a white socialite. My hope is that those who watch the film will not only cheer the heroic Marshall in the film but go on to learn more about the amazing work he and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund did to fight for rights we now take for granted. I want them to read the Pulitzer Prize-winning, Devil In The Grove about the Groveland Boys case in Florida. I wish the film to be a jumping off point to learn more about a history more likely to be whitewashed than brought forward.
Exiting the movie, I crossed paths with a woman who I recognized from the audience and asked, “How did you enjoy the film?” She said, “I got so mad to think that we went from Thurgood Marshall to Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court.” We talked briefly about Thurgood Marshall, Clarence Thomas, and Ben Carson and then went our separate ways. I am still pondering how we got from a legal giant to the black Harvey Weinstein whose best quality is to speak little lest he reveals himself a fool.
Thurgood Marshall fought in small courtrooms, mostly in the South and often alone. Sometimes the only hope standing between an innocent man and execution. The NAACP and Marshall only took on cases where they believed defendants to be innocent and their arrests based on race. Marshall risked his life that we all might benefit. His work is his legacy of which we can all be proud.
Clarence Thomas can be noted for his singular lack of legal accomplishments. His greatest skill before his appointment to the Supreme Court seems to be his ability to rise within government bureaucracy, rising to the Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He all but discontinued the practice of filing/joining class action suits, instead focusing on individual cases. He complained all black leaders did was, “bitch, bitch, bitch” about President Reagan instead of working with him. His nomination to the Supreme Court was confirmed by the Senate despite riveting testimony from Anita Hill and written statements from other women. Thomas himself claimed he was a victim of a “high tech lynching” and his biographer said Thomas was being attacked, “because he was black.” As a Justice, he’s a reliable vote to uphold police brutality, voter suppression and the end of Affirmative Action. He’s still best known for charges of sexual harassment, his affinity for porn including his fondness for, “Long Dong Silver.”
As shown I the film Marshall, Thurgood Marshall sacrificed much in the pursuit of equal justice under the law. He served as the first African-American Supreme Court Justice and will forever be a legal giant. Thomas is an embarrassment, ultimately becoming a barrier to progress instead of an example.