Clarence Thomas Is the One Who Should Apologize, Not Anita Hill

Ginny Thomas needs to take her business out of the street and talk to her husband.

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Since none of Ginny Thomas’s friends have stepped up, I’ll say it: Sister, whatever it was that set you off, it’s time to take your business out of the street and talk to your man. He's the one with the answers you seek. On the one hand you have to admire Thomas’s ability to remain so steadfast in her denial for more than 20 years. On the other hand, placing that call at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, seemingly out of the blue, suggests that something or someone is threatening to shatter her state of denial.

I’ll never forget the sound of the phones in Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston’s Los Angeles field office ringing off the hook for days, as Californians called, urging him to vote against confirmation of Clarence Thomas. Even before Anita Hill testified, Thomas’s own state of denial became clear as he sat and talked about having “pulled himself up by his bootstraps.” Those words played right into the imagery and hit the proper rhetorical notes. But they contradicted Thomas’s previous statements and professional record, which time and again demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to recognize that not everyone in America has access to a pair of boots with which to even try to pull themselves up. Ironically, as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, he was responsible for protecting workplace rights--like the right not to be sexually harassed. That should have been enough for him to be deemed unfit to hold a position of responsibility for equally protecting the rights of those who are powerless.

Then the FBI interview with Anita Hill became public.

It seems almost impossible now when remembering that in 1991 we didn’t really acknowledge, much less talk about, sexual harassment. Certainly not as an unacceptable abuse of power. Most of the time if you did say something you were (and sometimes still are) told you were exaggerating, it must have been a misunderstanding, or that it was all in your mind. Anita Hill unintentionally became a hero to myself and many other women because in telling the truth, she gave voice to our experience and reminded us that it’s not a misunderstanding if you feel unsafe or victimized in your workplace. On the positive, that painful moment in history sparked a debate in communities across the country that has helped us move forward. Rather than denying what was happening, issues were put on the table to be dealt with.

Now, 20 years later, you don’t call someone at the office at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday if you really want to reach them and talk about such a dramatic moment. Which is why it's hard to believe that Thomas truly believed Hill would call her back and apologize for telling the truth. Or that they’d have some girl chat to clear the air about a misunderstanding and end up buddies. The only person who still has something to explain and apologize for is Clarence Thomas. So Ginny, go handle your business.

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