Clarence Thomas: A Silent Justice Speaks Out

Thomas sees every parallel. The white liberals who brought Hill forward and encouraged Hill to go public, the white Senators who allowed it to happen, the white media who fueled the fire — all of it, he believes, was an effort to make Clarence Thomas into Bigger Thomas.

"It was as though these people had figured out a way to try to torment us, to connect it back to the worst stereotypes that they could find and to play this game, and it was a just an awful game that the South was accused of," Thomas says.

Much like Bigger Thomas in Native Son, Thomas wrote that he was "half crazed with fear" and felt "all my reserves were used up" when Hill's allegations were first made public. He wrote of lying across the bed, "curled up in a fetal position, tired beyond imagining."

"What would you do after over 100 days of being pounded and you're not sleeping you're exhausted. What would you do? And then all of a sudden something comes out of the blue, and this person that they've described as acting in a way that you've never seen — totally out of character — this combative, in-you-face person, is suddenly this demure person," Thomas says.

Virginia says the experience was "so surreal that it felt like we were in a nightmare," and they got through those days with prayers and faith. She says Thomas was "struggling emotionally and intellectually."

"It's just pure survival, hour by hour," Virginia says. "It truly was hour by hour, because Clarence was seemingly shrinking hour by hour into less of a man."

But he never considered quitting, even though he wrote that some top White House advisers, including Marlin Fitzwater and John Sununu, had advised Bush "to pull the plug." Bush refused.

"I mean, just go on and kill me and get it over with," Thomas says. "That was never an option."

Thomas says was fighting not for a Supreme Court seat — which he had never sought or particularly wanted — but for his very life, his name and the lives of those who'd sacrificed and gone before him, his grandparents, the poor blacks in Pinpoint, the ladies at the NAACP meeting who'd put all their dreams on him.

"It wasn't even about the Supreme Court, because I wasn't really interested in that. What you were fighting for was your life — for everything that went before," Thomas says. "You were fighting for the grandparents who sacrificed… In the end, that was what they were trying to destroy, and you knew they were trying to destroy it. This wasn't anything about any behavior. I mean, come on, give me a break. I knew exactly what it was."

When it became clear the Committee was going to reopen the hearings, Silberman told Thomas he needed a lawyer and had the top attorneys in Washington ready to sign on. But Thomas rejected the advice. He did not trust them. He turned to his old friend Larry Thompson, one person he knew he could trust.

"There were some well-intentioned people who wanted to talk strategy and all. I wasn't interested in that. This was not a case, it was not a court of law," Thomas says. "I saw what was going on in the context of, say, Native Son or Ralph Ellison, and I understood what was going on.

"I saw it for what it was, and I still see it for exactly what it was," Thomas says. "It was an effort to keep me in my place."

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