|By Matthew Little
The wife of Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas shook the mainstream media by reviving one of the most universally attention-getting Supreme Court hearings in that bodyâ€™s history.
Virginia Thomas recently announced that she was requesting attorney Anita Hill, now a professor of law at Brandeis University, to publicly apologize for her testimony against her husband in 1991 at his confirmation hearings.
Why Ginni, as she is known, would wait almost two decades to make such a request is a mystery that only she knows, but it provides an opportunity to review the case and the circumstances that rendered it historic.
For the benefit of my readers who might have been mere toddlers at the time, a brief review of the historic Hill-Thomas hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is in order. Anita Hill, a bright, young, African American attorney who had worked as Thomas’ deputy when he headed the national Equal Economic Opportunity Commission (EEOC), testified in dramatic fashion before a nationwide audience that Thomas had made provocative sexual remarks to her.
The senators, all male and White, repeatedly tried to debunk her testimony, but Hill would not be shaken. She stuck to her story with detailed precision. She remained dignified and composed throughout the proceedings in the face of sharp questioning by the senators.
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Some members vehemently attacked her credibility and character. Many of her own race criticized her for what was called violating the code which mandates that Blacks should not criticize, let alone accuse, each other in front of Whites.
Only the feminist movement reveled in Hill’s bold testimony. The national publicity increased the number of women willing to speak out publicly about their own experiences of sexual harassment.
After the hearings and the wide publicity that they received around the world, many predicted that Hill would capitalize on it by making high-paid speaking appearances, writing books, or even selling her story as a television movie or documentary. She proved them wrong.
She quietly returned to her teaching duties as a law instructor at the University of Oklahoma. In the meantime, she accepted very few speaking engagements, and most that she did accept were gratis.
I can personally vouch for that; in 1992, when the Minneapolis NAACP was seeking a speaker for our annual Freedom Fund Banquet and it was discovered that Prof. Hill was going to be in the area, we were able to prevail upon her to be a speaker for our banquet. To our surprise she agreed, asking no fee.
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She stated that she had a special feeling for the NAACP. It had provided her with a scholarship to Yale Law School, from which she graduated with honors.
The saga of the Hill-Thomas senatorial hearings remain the most publicized, yet most inconclusive hearings in the history of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Anita Hill became a household name, yet she long ago disappeared from public notoriety, content to live in anonymity as a law professor at a large private university.
That is why it seemed so strange that Ginni Thomas, the Caucasian wife of Justice Thomas, should at this late date resurrect memories of the Hill-Thomas case by demanding that Hill make a public apology for her testimony.
The only reason I can imagine for this is that she hopes to use this publicity to bring attention to her current political ventures. Recently, Mrs. Thomas has become deeply evolved in conservative politics.
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Her latest endeavor has been the creation of a Tea Party-like organization called Liberty Central that fosters and supports right-wing and conservative causes. Its existence has pretty much remained below the radar.
Could she possibly be hoping that attention drawn to her could be transferred to her Liberty Central?
Matthew Little welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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