Staying silent comes with a price.
Ask President George W. Bush. The 43rd American president rarely responded to some of the worst accusations hurled at him. That “strategery” backfired, helping crush his second term.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, known for his near-silence on the bench, has followed a similar path.
“Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words” lets the private judge open up about, well, everything.
- His childhood
- His confirmation hearing
- His conservative beliefs
It’s Justice Thomas narrating his life story and, more crucially, defending himself against liberal critics and the press. Then, as now, they’re often one and the same and remarkably cruel.
The first third of director Michael Pack’s “Created Equal” is both purely autobiographical and surprisingly warm. We join Justice Thomas as he navigates his childhood, a past marked by poverty, loss and separation.
The future judge was “too stubborn to cry” as a baby, he says with a cracked grin. That stubborn streak never really went away.
He grew up in “rural poverty” before transitioning to “urban squalor.” The former, he says, proved more tenable. He eventually moved in with his grandparents, which offered economic security and exposure to the ultimate tough love figure -- his larger than life grandfather.
When Justice Thomas cited him in his 1991 confirmation hearings it didn’t resonate with Americans. Anyone seeing “Created Equal” will view that moment with far more clarity.
Justice Thomas is a natural storyteller, his dry, authoritative voice a winning combination. He serves up crisp details throughout, evoking a childhood not easily forgotten.
We see racism through his eyes, noting how it recedes and evolves throughout his life. That’s clear when Thomas decides to align with the Republican party, even if he once viewed such a task as “repulsive.”
Life experiences convinced him to embrace conservative principles after flirtations with both atheism and black radicalism.
“The more radical tended to be the people we gravitated toward.”
Don’t miss your chance to see Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words.
Coming to select theaters January 31st.
— Justice Thomas Movie (@JusticeCTMovie) January 28, 2020
The meat of the documentary, to no one’s surprise, recalls Justice Thomas’ confirmation hearings. The event reminds us of the role future Vice President Joe Biden played in the affair as well as Justice Thomas’ resolute stand.
Biden grinned and performed for the audience, a showman hoping to trip the judge up. Justice Thomas remained stoic, keeping his voice level while emotions boiled beneath the surface.
Biden tried to goad the witness into sharing any pro-life views to be used against him. Justice Thomas wouldn’t budge. Today, the justice dismisses Biden’s performance like a parent ignoring a child’s plea for more chocolate.
The confirmation appeared a certainty until law professor Anita Hill accused the judge of making sexually charged advances during their working time together.
Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas, appears in the film as a secondary voice. Her comments during the confirmation replay spike when she considers those aligned against her husband. The notion that Sen. Ted Kennedy, of all people, stood in judgment galled her.
“The things he had done in his life,” she says, her voice trailing off.
It’s impossible not to reconsider Brett Kavanaugh’s recent confirmation fight while watching “Created Equal.” Like Justice Thomas, Kavanaugh fought back against a powerful smear campaign.
Both men wouldn’t stand down.
“I’ve never run from bullies,” Justice Thomas notes. The film reminds us the American public overwhelmingly believed him over Hill at the time, paving the way for his confirmation vote.
Justice Thomas suggests how little has changed in the culture since that epic battle, especially for minorities who don’t “think” the proper way.
“If you criticize a black person who’s more liberal, you’re racist, but you can do whatever to me or now Ben Carson,” he says. Why? To them, “you’re not really black,” he notes.
Need proof? “Created Equal” supplies ghastly images, from an “In Living Color” sketch suggesting Justice Thomas was a brainless husk to overtly racist political cartoons.
“We were told [racism] would be the bigot in the pickup truck … and I’m not saying some of that wasn’t bad … but the biggest impediment is modern day liberals,” he says. “They have the power to caricature you.”
We’re also reminded how the Left branded President Ronald Reagan a racist, not unlike the press slamming President Donald Trump in a similar fashion now.
Yes, “Created Equal” is imbalanced, and unabashedly so. Consider it an off-shoot of the Fox News effect. That channel provides a voice for half the country, a group most media outlets ignore, denigrate or both.
“Clarence Thomas in His Own Words” offers a similar service, righting a cultural balance that worked against its subject for the past 30-plus years.
HiT or Miss: “Created Equal” is a captivating look at a first-rate constitutionalist, eager to fully defend himself, and his life, at long last.