Actor and activist George Takei has apologized for calling US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas “a clown in blackface” in response to Thomas’ dissent to the Court's ruling on marriage equality in Obergefell v Hodges. Thomas wrote in his dissent that the US government could not bestow therefore could not take away the dignity of slaves or Japanese Americans interned during World War II.
A visibly angry Takei who was incarcerated as a boy in a Japanese American internment camp in Rohwer, Arkansas, told an Arizona reporter that Thomas did not belong in the Supreme Court, calling him “an embarrassment” and “a disgrace to America.”
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However, many critics felt that Takei went too far when he called Thomas “a clown in blackface.”
“When asked by a reporter about the opinion,” wrote Takei in a Facebook post, “I was still seething, and I referred to him [Thomas] 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.”
“Each of us, as humans, have hot-button topics that can set us off, and Justice Thomas had hit mine, that is clear,” wrote Takei, noting the high level of discourse he expects of his readers, “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.”
Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a freelance writer and speaker based in Michigan and Hawaii. She has been a contributor for AAPIVoices.com, NewAmericaMedia.org, ChicagoIsTheWorld.org, PacificCitizen.org, InCultureParent.com. She has published three chapbooks of prose poetry and been included in several journals, anthologies, and art exhibitions. She teaches Asian Pacific American Studies and writing, and she speaks nationally on Asian Pacific American issues.