Clarence Thomas as role model Story to tell: Justice's controversial court opinions overshadow his achievements.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

GEORGE WALLACE gets treated better by black people than Clarence Thomas. Even those who will never forgive the former Alabama governor for "standing in the schoolhouse door" to thwart integration in the '60s have applauded his expressions of remorse since. Mr. Thomas has not backed down from his controversial positions as only the second African-American to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Consequently, his opinions opposing affirmative action and majority-black voting districts have vilified him in the minds of the liberal African-American leadership.

One of the most vociferous Thomas critics has been Emerge editor George E. Curry, whose magazine has depicted the justice as a shoeshine boy, an Aunt Jemima and a lawn jockey. Even the NAACP has declared Mr. Thomas public enemy No. 1 and, with threats of mass protest, forced the justice to withdraw as a speaker at next week's Festival for Youth in Delmar, a small town straddling the Maryland-Delaware line, sponsored by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Maryland. Last year, Mr. Thomas was "disinvited" from appearing at a Prince George's County school, but eventually spoke there after the school board reconsidered.

It is one thing to disagree with Mr. Thomas as to the proper role of government in making amends for the discrimination against black people that has created obvious economic and political disadvantages. It is quite another to completely disregard the achievements of Mr. Thomas, and the fact that his own story of success through hard work could serve as inspiration to youth, African-American or otherwise.

After five years on the court, it should be clear that Mr. Thomas won't let personal attacks change his opinions about constitutional law. Critics should draw the line at making character assaults that unfairly attempt to diminish the justice's place in U.S. history.

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