Perpetuating old myths

Charles R. Lawrence

October 16, 1991|By Charles R. Lawrence

ON FRIDAY, Clarence Thomas called the Judiciary Committee hearings a "high-tech lynching of an uppity black man." On Saturday, he called himself the victim of bigoted "racial attitudes about black men and their views of sex."

I would like to believe Judge Thomas has finally learned he will never be free of racist stereotypes until the least of us is free.

Yet another story is being told as white America watches this Washington soap opera. This is the story of the way Americans have turned a blind eye to the rape of black women by propagating the myth that black women had no right to refuse the sexual advances of any man.

When the man on the street says, "I don't believe Hill's story," it is in part because he believes the old, oft-told story of "unchaste" black women. When Sen. Orrin Hatch charges that her experience is the fantasy of a spurned woman, he is evoking this myth.

Judge Thomas is hoping that taking on the victim's role will appeal to the black community's sense of solidarity. He is trusting that in our desire to protect ourselves from racist stereotyping we will stand with him and blame Professor Hill for being the bearer of the bad news.

Anita Hill is also one of our own. If her story is true, as I believe it is, she is the victim, and Clarence Thomas must not be allowed to use our collective racial victimization to blind us to that awful truth.

Charles R. Lawrence is a visiting professor at the University of Southern California Law Center.

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