The Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas sexual harassment case heard during Thomas' confirmation hearings represents one of the darkest moments in Intra-racial Black history to take place in my lifetime. Nearly 25 years ago, a debate raged in our communities over who was telling the truth, who was lying, and where our support should lie.
Devastatingly, many black men and women felt that getting a black man on the Supreme Court was more important than any truth, more important than acknowledging the indignity a black woman may have suffered at his hands.
'The notion that Hill should shut up and let Thomas [move on and move up into the Supreme Court] is just as horrifying today as it was two decades ago.' "
~ Jamilah Lemieux
"What Black Women Owe Anita Hill"
"It's the classic bind that many black women of that generation found themselves in, and I think that Dr. Angelou, she was of the position that she needed to support a black man who was seeking a position of power, regardless," McLarin said.
In siding with Thomas, Maya Angelou sided against an African-American woman, Anita Hill, whose testimony in 1991 nearly derailed the conservative Supreme Court nominee. Hill -- who now teaches at Brandeis University -- accused Thomas of sexual harassment.
In case you haven't guessed, let me make it clear to you that both of the above quoted articles were written BEFORE the drug-em-and-rape-em accusations against Bill Cosby.
That is, Maya Angelou didn't respond any differently to her need to defend Clarence Thomas than many black women felt to defend Bill Cosby. Black women still feel the need to "support a black man who [ is in ] a position of power, regardless."
For the most part? This has not changed.
The black community, male and female, has taken the very same approach to defending Cosby that they took to defending Clarence Thomas. And most of us have collectively done so at the expense of black women that many have chosen to pretend don't exist in this scandal...again.
Even non-feminist black women who cannot turn from the truth of Cosby any longer try to create smoke and mirrors diversions in the form of white comparisons (Stephen Collins)
--as if the wolves outside our community matter just as much as those within inside,
--as if the initial betrayal of defending Cosby when so many came forward doesn't demand repentance and an apology, both.
The black community's defense of Clarence Thomas only happened in 1991. But you'd think it happened in 1901 for as many black people as there are still alive on this earth, still living in the United States, who will ever admit aloud that they supported Thomas over Hill simply because he was male. (And I promise you that there were plenty of people that were certain Hill was lying. Certain.)
Compared to what happened in the black community in regards to Bill Cosby though? Black support of Clarence Thomas wasn't "just" a slap in the face to black women from black men (and also from patriarchy embracing black women.*) Defending Clarence Thomas did us all long lasting harm.
In 1991, the willingness to decide that defending this particular black man no matter what, rather than pursue the truth is a gift that will keep on giving until Thomas goes the way of Scalia. And we have recent evidence of this.
The Voting Rights Act was gutted just a few years ago with a 5 to 4 vote that included Clarence Thomas' help. That is, Clarence Thomas made it possible for southern states like South Carolina to come up with all these new voting rules and voter ID laws to make sure black people don't vote...like it's 1965 or earlier all over again. (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/law-jan-june13-scotus_06-25/)
As psychologically and emotionally terrible it has been to have Cliff Huxtable damaged by Bill Cosby's actions, at least The Cosby Scandal has held a mirror up to black community. We now know that the black community has learned little or nothing about valuing black women equally with black men since the Hill/Thomas Hearings.
HBO's "Confirmation" may or may not be truly from a black woman's point of view since I assume it is white male produced. But I have hopes that it is informative regardless of how produced it, directed it, financed it. I hope that it will be a way for some of us to get some cheap and easy history because if we don't know where we've been, we don't know where we are going.
The necessity of creating #SayHerName to add black women back to #BlackLivesMatter combined with the black reaction to Bill Cosby tells me we've been going around in circles for a while. The ranks of black feminists and womanists are swelling but not fast enough for my tastes. Anti-raicsm doesn't move fast enough for me either. But I expect more from my own people.
I'm hoping more and more black women will come to feel that way. As Beyonce recently pointed out, more men and women need to have their come to Jesus moment in regards to feminism -- which in its essence is only common sense.
So watch Kerry Washington as Anita Hill and use it as a spring board to learn a bit more about your own black female history.
HBO's PREVIEW OF "CONFIRMATION" coming to HBO on April 16, 2016 A PREVIEW