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The Purging of Justice Thomas [By James Kilpatrick] Two questions arise: Why did Anita Hill do what she did then? And why, with the publication of “My Grandfather’s Son,” has Clarence Thomas done what he has done now?

William Congreve answered the first

In the 1950s, Pinpoint, 10 miles southeast

Committee had listened to her lies. He was

question three centuries ago: Hell hath no

of Savannah, “was too small to be properly

fed up:

fury like a woman scorned.

called a town. No more than a hundred people lived there, most of whom were

“This is a circus. It is a national disgrace,

The second question is tougher. An easy

related to me in one way or another. Their

and from my standpoint, as a black

answer is that Justice Thomas did it for

lives were a daily struggle for the barest

American, it is a high-tech lynching for

money — that is, that he wrote this painful

of essentials, food, clothing and shelter.

uppity blacks who in any way deign to think

memoir mainly for the $1.5 million advance

Doctors were few and far between, so when

for themselves, to do for themselves, to

he received from HarperCollins. A better

you got sick, you stayed that way, and often

have different ideas, and it is a message

answer lies in the theory of catharsis, “a

you died of it.

that, unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you, you will be

purification of the emotions that brings about spiritual renewal or release from

“The house in which I was born was a

tension.” Sixteen years after his agonizing

shanty with no bathroom and no electricity

confirmation to the Supreme Court, Thomas

except for a single light in the living room.

had to pull this festering splinter: He would

Kerosene lamps lit the rest of the house. In

write the pain out of his system. Now! Done!

the wintertime was plugged up the cracks

But pus is pretty only to the patient.

and holes in the walls with old newspapers. Water came from a nearby faucet. We

In an engrossing account of his boyhood

carried it through the woods in old lard

in Pinpoint, Ga., Thomas starts with his

buckets ...”

hardscrabble beginnings: Readers who skip the middle chapters “I was 9 years old when I met my father.

of Thomas’ memoir do themselves a

His name was M.C. Thomas, and my birth

disservice. Eventually his race would

certificate describes him as a ‘laborer.’”

become the decisive factor in his career, but along the way he provided evidence of

The meeting took place at a housing project

real guts and modest talent. Then came

where the father was visiting. Thomas and

his rise to become chairman of the Equal

his younger brother arrived on schedule:

Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), his elevation to a circuit judgeship,

lynched.” Permit me a personal word: My beloved wife, Hearst columnist Marianne Means, has a very different view of Justice Thomas and his book. Last week she characterized his memoir as 289 pages of whine. In her biased view, Anita Hill was a Teller of Truth, a veritable Joan of Arc. In my own biased view, Hill was a vengeful woman who was determined to get back at a man who clearly thought she was less than wonderful. She has never been able to explain why she followed Thomas — this beast, this awful person, this tawdry, hypersexed, utterly detestable creep! — from one job to another. But let it go. To each his own catharsis.

“’I am your daddy,’ he told us in a firm,

and finally in the summer of 1991 his

I wish Thomas had not published this book.

shameless voice that carried no hint of

nomination to the Supreme Court of the

Now can I go to sleep?

remorse for his inexplicable absence from

United States. (Letters to Mr. Kilpatrick should be sent by

our lives. He said nothing about loving

e-mail to

or missing us, and we didn’t say much in

If Thomas had ended his memoir at that

return — it was as though we were meeting

point he would have had a good book but

a total stranger — but he treated us politely

no bonanza. For his own integrity — and


enough, and even promised to send us a

to earn that fat advance — he had publicly


pair of Elgin watches with flexible bands,

to squeeze the festering boil. Without the

which were popular at the time. Though we

final 50 pages there would have been no

watched the mail every day, the watches

marketable book. So, Anita Hill had defamed

never came.”

him. Members of the Senate Judiciary


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The Purging of Justice Thomas  

The second question is tougher. An easy answer is that Justice Thomas did it for money — that is, that he wrote this painful memoir mainly f...

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