USA: Fissures in the Edifice of Justice
ECHOS OF ANITA HILL
“A quarter of a century after Dr. Anita Hill was made to seem crazy, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is credible – BUT WRONG! We’ve come a scant little way, baby – even after the #MeToo movement.”
SB VEDA <Ottawa>
The recent Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation and the process that made it happen brings to mind a time from around a quarter century ago, demonstrating that despite the #MeToo movement and countless outings of sexual abusers since, the essential power structures that are entrenched in American society have changed not one bit.
Twenty-seven years ago, I had come out of the narrow tunnel that was high school to the broader landscape of higher studies. I’d heard that university years are when people come into their own: they form their essential character and that stays with them through much of their lives.
The issue that dominated campus talk was the confirmation process of Judge Clarence Thomas to the highest court of the Unites States – a body whose landmark judgments did away with segregation in the South, brought access to institutions previously shielded by longstanding sexist or racist practices, and perhaps most famously enabled women the right to do what they wanted with their own bodies when they became pregnant.
During the confirmation process, a law professor named Anita Hill was ‘outed’ in that she was, under penalty of perjury, by certain authorities compelled to admit that Thomas had sexually harassed her while she worked as a subordinate to him when he was head of the Equal Opportunities Commission. That’s right, the body to which sexual harassment complaints are to be made was led by an alleged harasser, himself.
We were busy handing out buttons saying “Men of Quality Respect Women’s Equality.” But, we were not immune to the jokes of some of our black brothers, making jokes that if Thomas had looked like Denzel Washington, Anita Hill wouldn’t have complained one bit. There was a real split in the black community then about what happened just as there is a real split regarding Ford-Kavanagh.
This was all despite Hill’s more than impressive testimony: In even tones and with reasoned speech, Dr. Hill came off as entirely credible in how she described Thomas’ inappropriate talk of pornography in the workplace as a pretext for making sexual advances against Hill. Thomas was all rage, flatly denying each and every charge, following it up by and complaining that a white man would neve have been put through – that the proceedings portrayed a bias of the dangerous negro with heightened and uncontrollable sexual proclivities. Thomas seemed unhinged at times in the same way that Kavanaugh seemed to lose control during his performance.
Thomas claimed that the alleged accusations typified his character then others would have come forward with similar claims. What the public didn’t hear is that four other women made almost exactly the same claims of Thomas but they were not asked to appear before the Senate Judiciary committee nor did the FBI investigate these claims.
Perhaps the most egregious aspect of the hearing – and one which has stayed with me – is the claim that senators, Republican and Democrat spewed forth the nonsense that they believe that Dr. Hill believed her allegations – but that the allegations never happened. In other words, this Harvard educated law professor, who clerked for Judge Robert Bork (considered to be the foremost conservative legal scholar of his day) was just batty, and had no grip on reality!
A variation on this judgment has now been made on Ford to justify confirming Kavanaugh. “We believe that Dr. Ford was attacked – just not by Kavanaugh.” This is despite her claim that Kavanaugh was the attacker with 100% certainty.
And, while it could be said that the Hill-Thomas battle was ‘he said, she said,’ in Ford’s case a witness, namely Mark Judge was named in the room. But his testimony was never taken under penalty of perjury. Instead, he was literally kept hidden in some undisclosed location by the powers that be, preferring to hide behind a prepared statement signed by his lawyer. This is just common sense: if your testimony could possibly prove that what your childhood friend, namely Kavanaugh, is testifying is actually true, why wouldn’t you volunteer to testify? Maybe being called would be problematic for Judge.
Both Kavanaugh and Judge were alleged to have been drinking, and their accounts might not be as clear under cross-examination than Ford’s.
Ford, it should be noted, was cross-examined by a female professional prosecutor with apparent experience prosecuting sex crimes. When it came time to do the same to Kavanaugh, Republican Senators by an large refused to yield their time to the prosecutors whom they had selected to question Kavanaugh, instead rendering Kavanaugh’s ‘questioning’ akin to a
The callous way in which President Trump, Lindsay Graham and other senators ridiculed Dr. Ford and the insidious Susan Collins who said she believed both parties (how can you possibly make such a claim – one is mistaken or lying) demonstrates that 27 years after Dr. Anita Hill was judged as bonkers, so too was Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (a psychology and brain scientist expert, mind you).
In the aftermath, Christian Conservatives are planning how they can weaken abortion rights in the country. And, Kavanaugh, let’s remember – the President’s man – was the only judge selected by the Federalist Society (a conservative organizations that recommends judges to Republican presidents) said in his judgment that a sitting president couldn’t be indicted. As Robert Mueller’s Russia probes churns out guilty pleas, Kavanaugh may be the one swing justice to save Trump. And, that’s why Trump defended him so vigorously. He is DJT’s lifeline as potentially treasonous acts are to be uncovered.
So, twice now, when a reasoned soft-spoken entirely credible woman goes against an angry man in power, she loses.
A year after the #Me Too movement downed prominent men, many of them liberals, two of the most powerful offenders remain unscathed: Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh. In the end, the movement has failed to make a dent on the machine that runs the American enterprise.
It is, therefore, time the masses rose up in revolution to implement fundamental change rather than simply engaging in a game of musical chairs. A quarter of a century of the status quo is quite enough. It’s time to take to the streets
Salon did a piece, which proved definitively that Clarance Thomas lied to the Senate (for which he could be prosecuted even, today) and that, indeed, Hill had a corroborating witness whose statement was allowed into judicial proceedings but who was not allowed to testify. The article by Steve Kornacki was published around seven years ago under the title: