Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ginni Takes a Ride

Hop into the time machine a second, will ya?  We're going back to 1991 - about this time of year -when the entire nation was gripped by the Senate confirmation hearings on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to be a Supreme Court justice.

Professor Hill
One thing stood in the way of a breezy passing vote - his onetime aide at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Anita Hill, had come forward with tales alleging sexual harassment she claimed to have suffered in his presence. She claimed that Thomas had told her that he was equipped similarly to the British porn star Long Dong Silver, and that he had constantly referenced porno movies.  Her testimony included this fascinating quote:

"He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes....On several occasions, Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess." Hill also said that the following incident occurred later after they had both moved to new jobs at the EEOC: "Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office, he got up from the table at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can and asked, 'Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?'."
Well, now. At the time I was still a regular Coke drinker, and for months after this, I insisted on thoroughly washing and all containers of cola before I would open them.

For his part, Clarence fought back with this memorable denial:

"This is not an opportunity to talk about difficult matters privately or in a closed environment. This is a circus. It's a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree."

Kitty M.
Both Anita and Clarence (I can use first names because it seems unlikely that I will enroll in any law classes at Brandeis, where she is a law professor, or appear before the Supreme Court, where he is one of nine berobed people) had people testify in support of both of their sides, so I never did know who was fibbin' and who was straight up.  I did quibble with his improper use of the word "deign," however, where he clearly meant to use "dare."  Deign means to do something one considers beneath one's station, as in "Kitty Montgomery does not deign to answer the phone or the door, as long as a servant is on duty."  However, in a rare display of self-restraint, I did not write to Justice Thomas and point this out, feeling that he already had enough trouble.  And he surely would have been unlikely to deign to reply, anyway.

He was confirmed, 52 - 48, the closest Supreme confirmation vote since Cindy Birdsong replaced Florence Ballard in 1967.

But now, 19 years later, Thomas's wife, the contentious conservative Ginni Thomas, called Anita's office phone and left this bizarre message:

“Good morning Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas.  I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought. And certainly pray about this and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. O.K., have a good day.”
Everyone looks better in a tux
After all these years, she starts this up again?  If you can tell me why, I can answer this part of it: she made this call to Ms Hill's office at 7:30 AM.  On a Saturday (October 9.)  Man oh man, if there is ever a time to make a call when you absolutely positively want to make sure the person you're really afraid to speak to will not answer, but you can leave a message, 0730 on a Saturday is about the best time for you to dial.

I say, why dredge up old grudges, or grudge up old dredges?  1991. Jeez.  Let it go.

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