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Clarence Thomas: His Life And The Hearings That Defined It

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Life and Background

Clarence Thomas is just the second African American justice to serve on the Supreme Court. His confirmation margin of fifty-two to forty-eight is the smallest margin in history. Until the very recent confirmations of both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, for the past twenty-five plus years, Thomas had been the last conservative to be named to the current court. Thomas’ confirmation hearings have gone down in history as those containing the most drama. His hearings would produce such intense arguments over race and gender. Thomas is on of the most publicly criticized justices in the history of the Supreme Court. The primary reason for that is the “uncommon” connection between his views and the color of his skin. Many black and white liberals consider him a traitor for being a black conservative. He was born in a small town outside of Savannah, Georgia. He grew up with his grandparents and in the process developed into a “gifted student-athlete”. Thomas went to Yale University, the nation’s most prestigious law school. Before attending Yale, however, Thomas attended Holy Cross University. (Foskett 8-20)

One of Thomas’ first notable “conservative actions” came while attending Holy Cross. In 1968 Thomas and other black students attending the university, started a black student union. Thomas was the treasurer. The union had a constitution, and in its preamble it stated,

“We, the Black students of the College of the Holy Cross, in recognizing the necessity for strengthening a sense of racial identity and group solidarity, being aware of a common cause with other oppressed peoples, and desiring to expose and eradicate social inequities and injustices, do hereby establish the Black Students Union of Holy Cross College.” (Foskett 99)

The union began to ask the administration for black professors and courses which studied black culture. Then, at the end of Thomas’ sophomore year, the Black Sutdent Union requested to have a black only corridor in the dormitories. When it came time to vote for the matter within the union every member passed the notion, except Thomas. Thomas believed that blacks were defeating the purpose that they had worked so hard in the past decades to gain. By self-segregating “blacks were turning away from the real world.” Thomas would make a bold move. Rather than separating himself from the Black Student Union and their personal corridor, he made a compromise. He decided to live in the corridor, with his white roommate. (Thomas 117, Foskett 99-102)

As mentioned before, Thomas went on to study law at Yale. An interesting note is that Thomas attended Yale during the same time that ex-president Bill Clinton attended the university. Clinton was enrolled in 1970 and Thomas in 1971. (Thomas 137-8)

Thomas was involved in the political scene very at a very early age. After just two short years in Washington, Thomas had been working in President Reagan’s administration. Thomas was a rarity in Washington. A black man working for the republican with conservative views, in a man few had ever seen before. In the Washington Post Thomas was introduced to the public. The article read, “He is one of the black people now on center stage in American politics: he is a republican, a long-time supporter of Ronald Reagan, opposed to the minimum wage law, rent control, busing and affirmative action.” (Foskett 152)

For eight-years Thomas served on the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee under Ronald Reagan. (Foskett 161-2)

On June 30, 1991 President Bush nominated Thomas to the Supreme Court. Similar to all nominees Thomas was sure to be asked many difficult and personal questions. And being a black conservative, and to many liberals and democrats, viewed as a traitor, passing his confirmation hearings and gaining approval from the senate would be no easy task. If that weren’t enough, Anita Hill made matters far more difficult when she accused Thomas of sexual harassment, ten years prior to the hearings. (Foskett 221-5)


Three days after Thomas’s hearings had concluded, Hill filed a four-page statement describing her relationship with Thomas. Hill said that he constantly asked her to go on dates with him and made crude sexual comments. She also quoted Thomas as saying, “…if you [Hill] tell anyone about my [Thomas] behavior, it will ruin my career.” When the FBI informed Thomas of Hill’s allegations, his immediate response was, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”(Foskett) Thomas denied every one of Hill’s accusations and added that he was dating other women at the time. (Foskett, Thomas, Danforth)

In Anita Hill’s official testimony and statement before the Judiciary Committee she said that, “during the fall and winter of 1982…the comments were random, and ranged from pressing me about why I didn’t go out with him, to remarks about my personal appearance.” (Hill) Hill accussed Thomas of what is now a famous quote. Hill claimed that on one occasion,

“Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office, he got up from the table at which we were wording, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can and asked, “Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?” (Hill)

Later, Hill said that on other occasions Thomas made remarks about the size of his own penis. Hill said that in January of 1983 she began looking for another job. She expressed her concern that if Thomas were to find out about her desire to find a new employer she may trouble succeeding in her attempt because he may, “make it difficult for me to find other employment.” Hill also claimed that when she was hospitalized for five days in February of 1983, her illness was contributed to stress on the job. When Hill changed jobs in July 1983 and said that, “his [Thomas] response was that now, I would no longer have an excuse for not going out with him.” (Hill)

Anita Hill’s accusations could be crushing towards Thomas’ prospects of being confirmed. Thomas categorized the action as a, “high-tech lynching”. (Thomas 426) Thomas exclaimed that now, “his enemies goals were not just



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