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Policy: Law

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas: Racism worse now than era of segregated South

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas told a group of Florida university students that race relations are worse now than when he was a child growing in up segregated Georgia, news reports say.

"My sadness is that we are probably today more race and difference-conscious than I was in the 1960s when I went to school," said Thomas, according to Yahoo News, which first reported his speech Tuesday at a chapel service at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Thomas, only the second black to serve on the high court, added that throughout his career he has experienced more racism in the nation's North than in his native South.

"The worst I have been treated was by Northern liberal elites. The absolute worst I have ever been treated," said Thomas, as reported by the news website. "The worst things that have been done to me, the worst things that have been said about me, by Northern liberal elites, not by the people of Savannah, Georgia."

Thomas said that to his knowledge he was the first black student in Savannah to go to a white school, and that "rarely did the issue of race come up."

"Now, name a day it doesn’t come up. Differences in race, differences in sex, somebody doesn’t look at you right, somebody says something," Thomas said. "Everybody is sensitive. If I had been as sensitive as that in the 1960s, I’d still be in Savannah.

"Every person in this room has endured a slight. Every person. Somebody has said something that has hurt their feelings or did something to them — left them out. ... That’s a part of the deal."

Thomas has served on the Supreme Court since 1991 after he was nominated by President George H.W. Bush. His confirmation proceedings centered on allegations that he had made unwelcome sexual comments to fellow attorney Anita Hill while serving as her supervisor.

A report of Thomas' presentation on the university's website doesn't mention his comments about racism. A spokeswoman for the West Palm Beach Christian school says no video or transcript of his speech is available. She also wouldn't confirm the accuracy of his reported comments, saying Thomas' visit wasn't a public event.

Thomas is well known for keeping silent during high court proceedings, often going several years without asking a question during oral arguments of cases.

This story was updated at 5:55 p.m.

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Author:

Sean Lengell

Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner