One on One: Fooled by Clarence Thomas, not Mark Robinson

Published 10:10 am Sunday, May 7, 2023

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By D.G. Martin

It happened to me back in 1991 when Clarence Thomas was nominated for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Thomas, although African American and coming from a poor background, was known to be very conservative. He grew up in a Gullah community near Savannah, Ga., raised by his grandfather after his father abandoned the family.

I got fooled, thinking that he would modify his hard-right views as he dealt with court cases that would remind him of the unfair challenges that he and his family had faced. I thought he would feel a growing responsibility to interpret the law, when possible, to require fair treatment for blacks and others suffering unfair treatment.

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I believed, naively, that Thomas’s background growing up poor in the segregated south would be a factor in his growth and maturity, and that he would come to realize that the law should be available for the improvement of the lives of blacks and other underserved people.

I was wrong.

When it comes to evaluating the choices for North Carolina’s next governor, I won’t be fooled again.

I am thinking about our Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who like Justice Thomas, grew up dealing with the extra challenges facing poor blacks in our region.

Like Thomas before his confirmation to the Supreme Court, and even more so, Robinson does not hide his strong right-wing views.

Some of these positions have been summarized by a pro-Democratic group, “Donate to Defeat Mark Robinson,” as follows:


Abortion: “Once you make a baby, it’s not your body anymore – it’s [the public’s] body.” [WRAL NEWS]

Anti-Semitism: “This foolishness about Hitler disarming MILLIONS of Jews and then marching them off to concentration camps is a bunch of hogwash.” [Mark Robinson’s Facebook]

Black Americans: “African Americans love to kill each other and have no problem embracing deviant, hypersexual behavior.” [Mark Robinson’s Facebook]

Climate change: “I’m sick of these lies about global warming. Stop talking to me about climate change. I know the climate changes, it happens four times a year, it’s called seasons!” [Mark Robinson speech]

Guns: “I got them AR-15s at home, and I like to go target shooting and all that. But that’s not what they’re there for … I got them AR-15s in case the government gets too big for his britches cause I’m gonna fill the backside of them britches with some lead.” [WRAL NEWS]

LGBTQ+ people: “There’s no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth.” [CNN]

Women: “We are called to be led by men,” not women. [WRAL NEWS]


This summary is not exactly neutral, having been prepared and circulated by Democrats. But it is based on actual quotes from Robinson. I think Robinson would not question any of it. He understands that his views are strong and controversial and does not back away from them.

Robinson’s forthrightness in acknowledging his positions on these matters persuades me that his background growing up as a struggling, poor black person does not mean that he will be transformed into a progressive figure fighting for equal rights.

I made that mistake once with Clarence Thomas and will not make it again with Mark Robinson.

D.G. Martin, a retired lawyer, served as UNC-System’s vice president for public affairs and hosted PBS-NC’s North Carolina Bookwatch.