George Takei has come under fire this week for calling Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas a “clown in blackface” over the judge's stance on marriage equality. However, the “Star Trek” actor insists that his comment was not racially motivated.
During an interview with Fox 10 Phoenix, Takei, who is gay, discussed the Supreme Court’s recent landmark ruling to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. Takei said he was “angry” at Thomas, who dissented to the decision, for his position on the issue.
“He is a clown in blackface sitting on the Supreme Court,” said Takei. “He gets me that angry. He doesn’t belong there.”
In his dissent, Thomas, who is black, wrote that “human dignity cannot be taken away by the government,” adding: “Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them.”
Takei, whose family was held inside a Japanese internment camp during World War II, took issue with this logic.
“For him to say slaves have dignity, I mean, doesn’t he know that slaves were in chains? That they were whipped on the back?” Takei said. “My parents lost everything that they worked for in the middle of their lives, in their 30s. His business, my father’s business, our home, our freedom and we’re supposed to call that dignified?… This man does not belong on the Supreme Court. He is an embarrassment. He is a disgrace to America.”
In the wake of the interview, Takei has been slammed for what has been called a "racist" comment -- an accusation that the 78-year-old fiercely rejects.
On Thursday, he wrote on Facebook:
A few fans have written wondering whether I intended to utter a racist remark by referring to Justice Thomas as a "clown...
Takei elaborated on his thoughts in a op-ed for MSNBC.
“To say that the government does not bestow or grant dignity does not mean it cannot succeed in stripping it away through the imposition of unequal laws and deprivation of due process. At the very least, the government must treat all its subjects with equal human dignity,” he wrote. “It seems odd that Justice Thomas, as an African American, would be an opponent of marriage equality. His own current marriage, if he had sought to have it some fifty years ago, would have been illegal under then-existing anti-miscegenation laws. I cannot help but wonder if Justice Thomas would have felt any loss of dignity had the clerk’s office doors been shut in his face, simply because he was of a different race than his fiancée.”
Thomas is married to attorney Virginia Thomas, who is white.
William Shatner, who has been known to “feud” with Takei online, defended his “Star Trek” co-star on Twitter.
In October 2008, a few months after California legalized same-sex marriage (and a few weeks before Proposition 8 made it illegal again), Takei and his longtime partner Brad Altman tied the knot in Los Angeles.
The couple have been together for almost 30 years.
Watch Takei's interview with Fox 10 below:
Correction: A previous version of this story erroneously stated that California was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. This has been corrected.