I’m a huge George Takei fan for his acting on Star Trek, but far more so for the great, courageous work he’s done fighting for human equality and dignity over the years. That’s why I think he was right to apologize (see below) for his “clown in blackface” comment about Justin Clarence Thomas. Even if Takei didn’t mean it as racist, which I’m confident is the case (given that he’s never shown the slightest evidence of being racist; in fact, quite the opposite), it’s still preferable to leave language like that to haters like Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, Ted Nugent, and many others on the right wing of the political spectrum. Other than being inappropriate and wrong, using language like “blackface” distracts from Takei’s main points about Thomas, which were absolutely accurate: that Clarence Thomas holds some pretty horrifying views on human dignity (“Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved,” Thomas said. “Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.”). Thomas is also unethical and deserves to be impeached, not to mention one of the worst Supreme Court Justices (along with Antonin Scalia and several others) in U.S. history. So yes, Thomas deserves all the criticism he gets – and more! – just not by using words that have racist connotations.
I owe an apology. On the eve of this Independence Day, I have a renewed sense of what this country stands for, and how I personally could help achieve it. The promise of equality and freedom is one that all of us have to work for, at all times. I know this as a survivor of the Japanese American internment, which each day drives me only to strive harder to help fulfill that promise for future generations.
I recently was asked by a reporter about Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent in the marriage equality cases, in which he wrote words that really got under my skin, by suggesting that the government cannot take away human dignity through slavery, or though internment. In my mind that suggested that this meant he felt the government therefore shouldn’t be held accountable, or should do nothing in the face of gross violations of dignity. When asked by a reporter about the opinion, I was still seething, and I referred to him as a “clown in blackface” to suggest that he had abdicated and abandoned his heritage. This was not intended to be racist, but rather to evoke a history of racism in the theatrical arts. While I continue to vehemently disagree with Justice Thomas, the words I chose, said in the heat of anger, were not carefully considered.
I am reminded, especially on this July 4th holiday, that though we have the freedom to speak our minds, we must use that freedom judiciously. Each of us, as humans, have hot-button topics that can set us off, and Justice Thomas had hit mine, that is clear. But my choice of words was regrettable, not because I do not believe Justice Thomas is deeply wrong, but because they were ad hominem and uncivil, and for that I am sorry.
I often ask fans to keep the level of discourse on this page and in comments high, and to remember that we all love this country and for what it stands for, even if we often disagree passionately about how to achieve those goals. I did not live up to my own high standards in this instance.
I hope all of you have a wonderful, safe and joyously free July 4th, the first where all married couples in the U.S. can enjoy the full liberties of matrimony equally. It is truly a blessing to be an American today.