Monday, October 25, 2010

I know why Ginnie Thomas called Anita Hill (or, Credo Action is making a mistake).

I have been puzzling it over for the last few days. I knew it had something to do with Thomas' political activities with the Tea Party, but I couldn't quite figure it out - was she actually trying to get an apology, for reals? Was there some demographic within the Tea Party who believed Anita Hill?

It took Juan Williams' firing and Credo to put it into perspective. As you all know, Juan Williams was an NPR journalist who was fired from his job there for appearing on Bill O'Reilly's show on FOX and saying that he feared Muslims getting onto an airplane with him and that it was important to cut through the "political correctness" around Muslims and to be honest about the level of threat that Muslims pose (read the Michael Moore piece I link to below - he does a good job of responding to this). I have never thought much of Williams as a journalist, and I won't miss him, but many have made the (correct) point that firing him for this was a bad publicity stunt for NPR to pull. As they explain, now there is evidence for FOX's favorite (and not at all hypocritical, right?) suggestion that NPR only hires those reporters who agree with their so-called left-wing politics. And this is exactly the kind of thing that can give that much more motivation to Tea Party folks to rebel against the current administration - just in time for the November elections.

So I had this all in the back of my mind this morning when I opened my email to find an appeal from Credo Action to sign a petition demanding that Clarence Thomas apologize to Anita Hill. I generally support Credo, and I am on their mailing list because I almost always want to sign petitions and send letters on behalf of the causes that they care about. But this one is a mistake, and I think it is exactly the reason that Ginnie Thomas called Anita Hill. Any public move to denounce Clarence Thomas again is going to do two things. First, it is going to add to the racial divide, real or imagined, between Obama followers (a multiracial group) and the Tea Party (also a multiracial group, but more white than not). This is ironic, because Clarence Thomas is Black, but it means that the Tea Party will back Ginnie Thomas (not Black) and not Anita Hill (Black). It is a clever way to hide race in a discourse that will be focused on 'that woman who says unspeakable things about another woman's husband' - that woman who is then, as scholars have written, herself tainted by the accusations of sexual harassment while her harasser is not. Second, it is going to add to the Right's furor over Juan Williams and perceived "political correctness" among progressives, as once again, it will argue, the "facts" are erased and the "radical" left is out to silence a different opinion (in this case, held by Ginnie Thomas). All of this will help their attempts to paint the moderate Obama as an extreme, radical socialist, and to whip voters into a frenzy, none of which will help progressive causes.

So, don't sign that Credo petition. And let's hope progressives can stay focused on the real issues for the next week.