RACE-ING JUSTICE, EN-GENDERING POWER
Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Constitution of Social Reality
To the likely delight of liberals and the fury of conservatives, this collection of original essays on last year's acrimonious confirmation controversy makes no pretense to ideological balance or impartiality. The essayists--18 scholars of African-American and women's history--believe that Clarence Thomas was guilty as sin--if not of Anita Hill's sexual-harassment charges, then certainly of selling out the interests of minorities and women. The Thomas-Hill firestorm, in the words of contributor Manning Marble, revealed "the overlapping contradictions of gender, race, and the flawed ideology of liberalism." Editor Morrison, in a scathing introduction that compares Thomas to Robinson Crusoe's Friday, captures the contributors' anger at the Senate hearing's "frustrating language, devious calls to arms, and ancient inflammatory codes." The other essays are of widely varying substance. The most original and powerful pieces include an open letter from Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., that flings thunderbolts at Thomas for casting his lot with conservatives hostile to the civil-rights movement; Carol Swain's perceptions on how lack of cohesion among black leaders ensured Thomas's narrow confirmation margin; and Christine Stansell and Nellie McKay's analyses of the ambivalence with which white feminists and black women, respectively, were viewed in the fight for black public opinion. On the negative side, Wuhneema Lubiano pedantically analyzes the visual and textual images created by Thomas supporters, and Michael Thelwell descends into a witless parody of black conservatives. Often provocative, yet diminished by academic prose, homogeneous perspectives, and an almost inevitable tendency to recycle anecdotes (e.g., Thomas's alleged characterization of his sister as a welfare dependent).