Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas Hearings

On the surface, the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings seemed to be relatively simple, wherein a man who was a candidate for one of the country\'s most prestigious positions was challenged by a former co-worker claiming sexual misconduct. It seemed at first to be a story that the American public was somewhat familiar with: politicians and prestigious men have been linked several times before with charges involving sexual misconduct. However, when we get a closer look at the situation, America was seemingly not ready for the incredibly complex debate that ensued; where issues of race, sexuality, class and gender would be addressed, constructed, (mis)used and manipulated. The first question that arises then, is how the American public and various groups of people attempted to untangle such a complex debate. Upon attempting to analyze the elements of the story, we inevitably encounter some serious questions and contradictions that make the extraction of various elements extremely tricky.
In order to effectively provide a conceptual framework that serves to make sense of this complicated situation, I argue that we must look chronologically backwards, and work from the end of the debate to the beginning. The framework of this paper then, will be focused around addressing a set of questions that will attempt to expose and explain the contradictions that arose in the debate, and how sense was made of these (on the surface), by various interest groups.
Having premised this, I will begin at the end with the first set questions: What was the result of the situation, and why? How did Clarence Thomas succeed in coming out the victor of such adverse circumstances? To answer this question we must revisit an entire history that became an important feature in debate, and was called upon to reshape the framework.
Although admittedly somewhat awkward, starting at the end point of this debate will allow the complexities of the entire story to unfold in such a way that will serve to uncover and re-emphasize the mutually constituting categories of race, class and sexuality.
As a starting point, what proved to be an especially fascinating moment of the proceedings was how Thomas chose to deal with Hill\'s allegations. This incredibly deliberate move served to reframe the story, and became the crucial moment that arguably forced Hill to be conceptually paralyzed and thus written out of the story. When we look at this particular part of the debate, two important contradictions become undeniably obvious. One, Thomas misused the lynching narrative by applying it to a situation with a black woman, and two, he played the "race card" even though he was an "individualist" and had historically distanced himself from the race. Paradoxically, he won the support of the vast majority of African Americans despite the fact that he was doing a great disservice to the community: reducing himself solely to a raced individual, emphasizing that one must fall back on race if backed into a corner, and not on his own personal (good and honorable) character. Equally important to look at is why and how these contradictions did not surface in the public reception of Thomas\'s response, and how Anita Hill became invisible.
When Thomas paralleled the situation with a lynching, and chose to use the language of racism and oppression, he successfully masked one of the most important contradictions in his argument. Anita Hill was a black woman and not a white woman entirely disturbs Thomas\' play on the lynching image. As someone who was familiar with this narrative, Thomas ignored the fact that lynching rested upon the (supposed) relationship of white women and black men. Sexual exchanges between black men and black women were not even considered or given a second look because they were both seen as sexually deviant. In fact, what was really lying at the core of the lynching narrative was the roles available to black women, and their binary opposition to white women. Paula Giddings expands on this in her essay, "The Last Taboo" (Morrison, p. 451):
At the epitome of the immorality, pathology, and impurity of the age, black women were seen in dualistic opposition to their upper-class, pure, and passionless white sisters. It was this binary opposition of women (black men\'s sex drives were not seen as inherently different than