Clarence Thomas: A Silent Justice Speaks Out

The night before the hearing, Thomas wrote of trying to write his statement, "unable to summon the energy to do anything." Virginia swept away all the notes and suggestions friends had given them and handed him a legal pad. Thomas wrote that he prayed for wisdom and courage, and "all at once the words began to pour out of me."

He sat at his kitchen table and wrote by hand, and Virginia typed it upstairs on their computer. They finished around 5 a.m., and went to bed for an hour's sleep. Thomas said he spent that hour "tossing, turning and thinking, and the more I thought, the angrier I got." He thought of laboring in the South Georgia heat, because, as his grandfather said, it was "our lot to work from sun to sun."

"I'd lived by the rules of a society that had treated blacks shabbily and held them back at every turn. I'd plugged away, deferred gratification, eschewed leisure," he wrote. "Now in one climactic swipe of calumny, America's elites were arrogantly wreaking havoc on everything my grandparents had worked for and all I'd accomplished in 43 years of struggle"

"My friends in Savannah had told me to let go of my foolish dreams. 'The man ain't goin' let you do nothin',' they had said over and over. 'Why you even tryin'?" Now I knew who 'the man' was," Thomas wrote. "He'd come at last to kill me, and I had looked upon his hateful, leering face as he slipped his noose of lies around my neck."

Thomas wrote that he'd asked God to purge his heart of anger, but "it had slipped its leash" and he owed it to his family "not to self destruct but to confront them with the truth."

By the time he arrives at the Capitol, Thomas had become an explosively angry black man. His testimony soon would make that abundantly clear.

"When I stood next to the President in Kennebunkport being nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States, that was a high honor, but as I sit here before you 103 days later, that honor has been crushed. From the very beginning, charges were leveled against me from the shadows, charges of drug abuse, anti-Semitism, wife beating, drug use by family members, that I was a quota appointment, confirmation conversion and much, much more," he testified. "And now, this."

"Mr. Chairman, I am a victim of this process. My name has been harmed. My integrity has been harmed. My character has been harmed. My family has been harmed. My friends have been harmed. There is nothing this committee, this body, or this country can do to give my good name back. Nothing," he continued. "I will not provide the rope for my own lynching or for further humiliation."

When Thomas stopped, he wrote that the "world seemed to go blank." He left the hearing room and went home. Virginia went upstairs and watched Hill testify, but Thomas did not.

She came down later and told Thomas about Hill's allegations, and she says she told him "people will probably respond to her."

"I was shocked that she looked credible. I was shocked because I knew the truth of Clarence Thomas and what he was like, and I was shocked that she had it within her to look credible with these charges," Virginia says. "And that's a problem."

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