Clarence Thomas: A Silent Justice Speaks Out

"And so I had to be careful, and I had to make sure that when I had a problem, I had to nip it in the bud. And when I saw alcohol becoming a problem, I nipped it in the bud," he says. "I had a child to raise. I had responsibilities, and I had to discharge those and, thankfully, I did."

Thomas says he saw the cliff all long, and that he inched closer to it as he "found the difficulties in his life mounting and that being a way to just go home and have a couple drinks at night — as a way to soothe it."

"And when that began happening, I said, 'I'm done,'" he says.

Looking back on his life and struggles, he talks about his experiences integrating all-white worlds, and the extraordinary pressure and stress that produced. It has shaped his views on racial policies, which he says he believe focus too much on defending theories of affirmative action instead attending to the needs of the individual child.

"There were lots of dark moments, and that is why, if you notice, I'm very reluctant to impose or inflict on other kids all these grand theories that people have," Thomas says. "You don't know what you're putting on these kids. People wouldn't do it. I've asked them, 'Would you do this to your own child?' and they say, 'No.' Well why would you do it to somebody else's child?

"You don't know these lonely moments. You don't know how it is to have no money and no shoes or old boots and things like that. You don't know how it is not to be able to afford to go home when other kids are on spring break," he says. "You don't know how it is when you walk in a dorm room, and you're the only black kid there. You don't fit in.

"You know, they're talking about whether or not their kid has the right kind of computer to fit in. Well, you can change the computer. You can't change you," he says. "And all these burdens, at some point, you wear a person down. So yes, I mean, there were burdens all along, but you can't give into them, and you certainly don't want to create more problems.

"I didn't have the luxury of making big mistakes," Thomas says, "I barely had the luxury of making small mistakes."

Thomas appears shocked — he is completely taken aback, then becomes angry — when it's suggested that his critics could make the link between his drinking and the time that he worked with Anita Hill.

"That's a stretch. That's really a stretch," he shoots back. "First of all, I was never a drunk, OK?

"I didn't have the luxury of being a lush. I didn't have the luxury of being a drunk," he says. "I mean, the question should be about what were people doing to you that was so bad."

"They can say whatever they say, but there is somebody out there right now who has a problem with alcohol," Thomas says. "And the only way to identify with them is to be honest — that you saw something like that coming down the track."

Thomas says he wrote the book for those people — not for his critics.

"The choice is between honesty and dishonesty… and I didn't think I could write a sham of a book that says, 'I'm this great guy, and I did this and that, and I didn't have this particular problem.' That's not true. You do your best to communicate honestly with people, with people who need help.

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