The Gray Area with Sean Illing

The Gray Area with host Sean Illing is a philosophical take on culture, politics, and everything in between. We don’t pretend to have the answers, but we do offer a space for real dialogue. Resist certainty, embrace ambiguity, and get some cool takes on a very hot world. Formerly the Vox Conversations podcast. New episodes drop every Monday and Thursday.


What Clarence Thomas really thinks

Sean Illing talks with Corey Robin, author of a recent article — as well as a 2019 book — about the life and thought of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Robin discusses how Thomas, whose concurring opinion in the case that overturned Roe v. Wade garnered recent attention, developed the ideological basis of his extremist judicial philosophy, how his views went from the hard-right fringe to more mainstream over the course of his thirty years on the Supreme Court, and how the failures of the 1960's movements shaped his fundamental pessimism about racial progress in America.

Host: Sean Illing (@seanilling), Interviews Writer, Vox

Guest: Corey Robin (@CoreyRobin), author; professor of political science, Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center


  • The Enigma of Clarence Thomas by Corey Robin (Metropolitan; 2019)
  • "The Self-Fulfilling Prophecies of Clarence Thomas" by Corey Robin (New Yorker; July 9)
  • Clarence Thomas's opening statement, Anita Hill hearing (C-SPAN; Oct. 11, 1991)
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952)
  • Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization (2022); Thomas's concurrence
  • American Negro Slave Revolts by Herbert Aptheker (1943)
  • Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution - 1863–1877 by Eric Foner (1988; updated 2014)
  • The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in An Age of Diminishing Expectations by Christopher Lasch (Norton; 1979)
  • The Rhetoric of Reaction by Albert O. Hirschman (Harvard; 1991)


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This episode was made by: 

  • Producer: Erikk Geannikis
  • Editor: Amy Drozdowska
  • Engineer: Patrick Boyd
  • Deputy Editorial Director, Vox Talk: A.M. Hall

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 2022-08-29  1h4m