Not long ago I attended a conference at New York City’s Hunter College commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings where Professor Hill, in damning detail, publicly testified to her experience at the hands of now-Justice Thomas which included sustained sexual harassment. Her courage caused open discussion of sexual harassment to burst violently onto the national scene, unapologetically breaking the silence felt by millions of women who had been shamed, threatened, and cajoled into pretending what had happened to them was business as usual. The conference sought to honour Professor Hill and featured a variety of speakers, activists old and new, commentators, reporters, academics and friends who all offered their perspective on the matter. It was elucidating and, to turn that blessed cliché, empowering.
The volunteers at the university all wore T-shirts that read “I Believe Anita Hill.” It was a powerful and dangerous message,as much now as it was then: to suggest that one accepts a woman’s reality as real.
It is a cosmic irony that just a little over two weeks after this conference, one which at first felt like it was summoning up something confined to the misty history of the early 1990s, I should discover that Politico posted a special report about how Republican presidential nominee Herman Cain had sexual harassment allegations levelled at him by at least two women some fifteen years ago.
It is as if I attended a special seminar on handling emergency situations and then, practically upon leaving, I find myself having to use all of the tools given to me therein with the utmost urgency. Within the last 48 hours events in the commentariat have spiralled out of control and old revenants that haunt American politics now shriek with window-shattering violence. Clarence Thomas’ sins have been resurrected, countless commentators on the right have resumed bashing Anita Hill, the words ‘hi-tech lynching’ took less than a day to appear at the very cusp of the breaking news froth (on the BBC, no less), and a cavalcade of racism and racist appropriations have gushed forth from the mouths of every white talking head within shouting distance of a satellite link-up.
Yet what is of special interest to me, and what prompted me to say something, are the particulars of what a well-known white conservative woman has been saying about this scandal:
Ann Coulter, a right-wing commentator, called the claims “another high-tech lynching”, saying liberals couldn’t stand strong black conservatives.
She has quite a lot to say about Clarence Thomas, up to and including her beliefs about where accusations like this originate from:
“If you are a conservative black, they will believe the most horrible sexualized fantasies of these uptight white feminists,”
I’ve just returned from the washroom and after careful examination I have concluded I’m not white. But, moving on:
“Our blacks are so much better than their blacks,” she said, speaking of Democrats. (Source.)
I could just end the article right here as this, in some ways, can say everything that needs to be said about how white conservatives have handled this latest issue with Herman Cain. But much more should be said.