Clarence Thomas Nostalgic for Race-Neutral Days of 1960s Georgia

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Figuring out who to vote for was a lot easier back then, because you couldn't vote anyway. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Clarence Thomas, lamenting the race consciousness of modern American society, says America was better in this regard when he was a kid.

My sadness is that we are probably today more race- and difference-conscious than I was in the 1960s when I went to school. To my knowledge, I was the first black kid in Savannah, Georgia, to go to a white school. Rarely did the issue of race come up.

Right. But maybe the reason race came up so rarely was not that the racial situation was better in 1960s Georgia. Maybe the reason race came up rarely is that the racial situation in 1960s Georgia was extremely terrible.

For instance, for the first 14 years of Thomas's life, Georgia had zero African-Americans in its state legislature. Majority-black Terrell had a total of five registered black voters — possibly because African-Americans were so satisfied with their treatment that they didn't see any reason to vote, or possibly because civil-rights activists in Georgia tended to get assassinated.

So maybe "reluctance to bring up racial issues" is not, in fact, the best measure of a society's racial health.