On Friday morning October 11, there was a sense that the nation was about to witness a rare and overdue milestone in history. Like many others across the country, members of the Sojourners staff gathered around a television, or tuned in to a radio, to follow the Senate Judiciary Committee's proceedings regarding the sexual harassment allegations brought by University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. What was to come, we hoped, would bring both the seriousness and pervasiveness of sexual harassment firmly into the center of the public eye.
What followed has been described as a "spectacle," a "circus," "political grenade throwing," a "national disgrace." Indeed, who could have imagined that three days of outrageous senatorial bickering, scandalous attacks and counterattacks, and recitals of explicit and lurid sexual matters would be aired on national television.
There were several perversions along the way that led the nation into this abysmal mess. The first was the declaration in July by George Bush that Clarence Thomas was the most qualified person for the job -- and that race had nothing to do with his nomination to the highest court in the land. Clearly, Bush's choice was calculated to please conservatives and squeeze liberals into the difficult position of opposing a black man who had risen from Southern poverty.
The Senate Judiciary Committee added to the scandal in its handling of Anita Hill's allegations. Not one of the senators considered the charges important enough to postpone the committee vote -- some admitted not even reading her affidavit. Their actions prompted an unprecedented march by seven women of the House of Representatives to the Senate to demand that the allegations be taken seriously.