For Thomas, race favor gives no real favor at all

Thursday, July 3, 2003 at 1:00am

"Clarence Thomas is my color, but he's not my kind." So sneered Al Sharpton, the black preacher and presidential hopeful during a recent Democratic candidates forum sponsored by Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH coalition. Sharpton's remark reportedly elicited one of the loudest applause lines.

The decidedly Democratic audience apparently shared the insinuation that Thomas is a traitor to the race, not the least because the Supreme Court justice opposes racial preferences.

This week, Thomas joined the high court's 6-to-3 majority in Gratz v. Bollinger, which struck down a point system by which the University of Michigan's undergraduate admissions office gave a decided advantage to minority applicants over comparably qualified whites.

He also sided with the 4-to-5 minority in Grutter v. Bollinger, in which the court contradictorily decided it was OK for Michigan's law school to give minority applicants an advantage over comparably qualified whites.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who wrote the majority opinion in Grutter, offered a tortured explanation of why the university's law school admissions practices passed constitutional muster while the practices of undergrad admissions did not. The undergrad admissions' point system was blatantly preferential to minorities, she reasoned; whereas, the law school's admissions system was more nuanced.

Yet the law school's practices were no less preferential to minorities, no less discriminatory toward whites

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