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Here’s What Clarence Thomas’ Health Scare Could Mean for America

Photo Credit: Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was discharged from Sibley Memorial Hospital on March 25th after a week of experiencing flu-like symptoms. The doctors who treated him have labeled his condition as a non-covid related infection, though they have yet to go into any further detail than that. Whatever it is, this illness has become severe enough to the point where he’s missed several days of case hearings and has yet to release a statement to the public on how he is doing. This health scare not only raises concerns for the Justice’s well-being, but also raises speculation on how much longer he might serve on the Court.

As of the writing of this article, Clarence Thomas is the only Black voice on the SCOTUS bench. If his seat were to be vacated, it’s quite likely that he would be replaced by a judge matching his demographic. Just like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was replaced with another woman (Amy Coney Barrett) after she passed, and Justice Thurgood Marshall’s seat was filled by another Black man (Clarence Thomas) when he retired, the former civil-rights activist may have his spot in the Court filled by a mirror of himself.

However, Justice Thomas has made it clear over the years that race means very little to him when it comes to politics. So when it comes to his replacement, there’s no doubt that the Justice would much rather have someone who resembles his ideology rather than his physical features.

Of course, that decision isn’t up to him. The President and the United States Senate are in complete control of the judges that make America’s highest court, and much to the dismay of the outspokenly conservative Justice Thomas, both sections of the government are controlled by the Democrat party. This leaves the aging Justice with two options, retire and preserve his health, or hold on to his seat and pray that the political landscape shifts in his favor soon.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg found herself in a very similar situation towards the end of her life. The almost 90-year-old RBG was making regular visits to the hospital and missed weeks of case hearing during this time. It was obvious to all that despite being mentally sound, she was physically unfit to continue to serve on the SCOTUS. But regardless of her failing health, she refused to retire. Though she never publicly confirmed her reasoning for this action, most political minds agree that it was due to the presence of one man. Donald Trump.

The now-former president had already assisted with filling two seats in the Supreme Court, which helped secure the conservative majority of 5-4 within the Court. If she were to vacate her seat during his administration, it would result in a 6-3 right-wing domination of the Court that could potentially affect the country for decades. Justice Ginsburg fought hard and refused to allow a man like Trump to have that much influence over the country. However, it was a fight she couldn’t win, and on September 18th, 2020, the notorious RBG became the 36th Supreme Court Justice to die on the bench. And a few months later, conservative Amy Coney Barrett took her seat.

With the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas will soon be the oldest person sitting on the SCOTUS bench at the age of 73. Though his health concerns are nowhere near as alarming as dire as Ruth Ginsburg’s, it’s hard not to see the parallels in his current predicament.

President Biden has all but secured a young left-leaning replacement for Breyer is Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal judge who, if appointed, would be the first Black woman to ever serve on the SCOTUS. Her confirmation would secure a seat in the Court for progressives for the foreseeable future. If Thomas were to retire now, it would undoubtedly result in the conservative lead shrinking back down to 5-4. But if he decides to stick it out and his health continues to decline, he may meet the same fate as RGB.

None of us know what the future holds for Justice Clarence Thomas. He might succumb to a new illness next week or live to serve on the bench for another 20 years. The only thing that we can be sure of is that his absence will be felt by all when he leaves. Much like the circus happening now with Ketanji Brown Jackson’s hearings, there will be weeks’ worth of debates about who should take his place. And when it’s all said and done, America as a whole will be affected by the departure of the second-ever Black Supreme Court Justice.

1 Comment

Thomas has lived his life filled with “righteous” anger because he was cursed to be born a white man trapped in a Black man’s body. 😎

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