George Takei is speaking out once again on an important issue, but his choice of words have some condemning his use of a racialized word. In an interview with Fox 10 Phoenix on Tuesday, Takei called Clarence Thomas a "clown in blackface" because of the Supreme Court justice's controversial dissent in the landmark SCOTUS ruling that legalized gay marriage nationwide. Takei has since defended his use of the word "blackface," but many are not sitting idly by.
In his Supreme Court opinion, Thomas, who is black, wrote that "slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved." Thomas would go on to say that Japanese Americans confined in internment camps during World War II also did not lose their dignity because of the federal government. For Takei, who is openly gay and whose family was forced out of its home and into an internment camp, Thomas' comments would not go over lightly.
He is a clown in blackface sitting on the Supreme Court. He gets me that angry. He doesn't belong there, and for him to say slaves had dignity, I mean, doesn't he know that slaves were enchained, that they were whipped on the back?
People quickly criticized Takei for making a seemingly racial attack against Thomas, though the Star Trek actor took to Facebook Thursday to defend his statements. Takei said he intended to use the term "blackface" as it's known in the theater world, which, to him, meant "a white actor who blackens his face to play a black buffoon." Takei argued that in "traditional theater lingo," the word "blackface" was not racist but instead "part of a racist history in this country." Takei continued:
I feel Justice Thomas has abdicated and abandoned his African American heritage by claiming slavery did not strip dignity from human beings. He made a similar remark about the Japanese American internment, of which I am a survivor. A sitting Justice of the Supreme Court ought to know better.
Takei also penned a post for MSNBC and elaborated on his comments about Thomas, saying the justice's opinion on gay marriage is unusual considering Thomas' own marriage to a white woman, which would have been considered illegal just 50 years earlier. "It is a sad irony that he now enjoys the dignity of his marriage, equal in the eyes of the law to any others, while in the same breath proclaiming that the denial of marriage to LGBTs works no indignity," Takei wrote.
The issue of racist or not continued online as people stepped out on both sides of the debate to attack and defend Takei.