The Legacy of the Hill-Thomas Hearings

Ruby Rohrlich (rohrlich@GWIS2.CIRC.GWU.EDU)
Thu, 15 Feb 1996 01:09:32 -0500

This is the sub-title. The title of the book is RACE, GENDER AND POWER
IN AMERICA. It is edited by Anita Faye Hill and Emma Coleman Jordan,
published by Oxford U. Press, l995. The book was discussed this evening
by Jordan, and two of the contributors to the book, Adele Logan
Alexander and Susan Deller Ross, at the bookstore Politics and Prose in
Washington, D.C. This was a
discussion in depth and in all its complexity. Jordan and Ross are
lawyers at Georgetown School of Law Center, and Alexander is a historian of
the history of African-American women.
Judging from the discussion this evening, he dust jacket of this book
describes it accurately and
honestly, so I'll quote from it: "Anita Hill's testimony at the Senate
confirmation heaarings of Clarence Thomas provided the most dramatic
representation of the emergence of a distinctive black women's voice in
American public life. RACE GENDER AND POWER IN AMERICA is a powerful
collection of essays that examines the context and consequences of the
hearings, charting the unfamiliar terrain of race and gender
representation. It includes the first published essay on the episode
written by Hill herself. These essays identify and analyze the emergence
of gender discontent among African Americans.
"This collection brings toagether for the first time many of the
direct participants in the hearings. . . . Jordan's essay examines how
Thomas used the 'lynching' metaphor to evoke a false racial memory of
innocent black victims of vigilante violence. The lynching metaphor
succeeded in branding Hill as a race-disrespecting traitor who was
willing to 'air the dirty linen' of sexual misconduct by breaking a
powerful racial taboo against exposing black men to flawed justice. In
'She's No Lady; She's a Nigger,' Adele Logan Alexander scrutinizes the
devastating centuries-old stereotypes of African-American women as
mindless, untrustworthy, and sexually insatiable. Hill examines the
institutions of patronage and marriage, demonstrating how, as a
professional African-American woman with no official Senate sponsor, she
confounded the assumptions by which lawmakers are accustomed to
assigning credibility and status. 'In going before the Committee, I
came face to face with a history of exclusion from power," she writes.
Charles R. Lawrence views the controversy as Act One in a three-act
morality play starring Clarence Thomas, William Kennedy Smith and Mike
Tyson, and Harvard's Orlando Paterson maintains that it is black men,
even more than black women, who suffer the consequences of strained gender
relations. Robert L. Allen describes his encouraging work with the
Oakland Men's project, and offers a prescription for ending sexual
harassment and the system of sexism that underpins it. RACE GENDER AND
POWER IN AMERICA is provocatiave reading for everyone concerned about the
fault lines of race and gender threatening to rupture our society."
The discussion was intensely intelligent and knowledgeable, and I
can't wait to read the book. Ruby Rohrlich