Speaking at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida, Thomas, the second black justice to serve on the court, lamented what he considers a society that is more ‘conscious’ of racial differences than it was when he grew up in segregated Georgia in the days before — and during — the civil rights era.
The conservative justice who, among other things, has written opinions supporting limits on Affirmative Action, added that ‘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.’
The justice, who spent some of his childhood in a racially segregated Georgia, – a time when public facilities in his home state of Georgia were segregated by race, the occasional Ku Klux Klan billboard dotted the Southern landscape, and where Thomas, by his own recollection, was forced to ‘steer clear’ of certain parts of Savannah.
He equated racial injustice with the day-to-day unfairness of life, criticizing the amount of focus placed on racial issues in national discussions.
‘My sadness is that we are probably today more race and difference-conscious than I was in the 1960s when I went to school.