Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called Anita Hill over the weekend and left a message asking her to apologize to her husband. Now, if I’m on the playground and a child tells me that my son did something to a third child that warrants an apology, I almost always tell the first child that whatever happened is between my son and the third child. They need to work it out themselves. If you ask me, someone needs to tell Virginia Thomas that today.
Of course, Virginia Thomas probably placed that call to Anita Hill make sure everyone thinks about something else besides the recent New York Times article that outlines the potential conflict of interest between the organization Thomas runs, Liberty Central, and last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case which lifted limits on campaign contributions by corporations and unions. The issues raised by her paid involvement with Liberty Central (which she founded) and the Citizens United case, from which Clarence Thomas could have recused himself given his wife’s job, are thorny and complicated. Mrs. Thomas doesn’t want anyone to be thinking about those issues. She wants us to remember that Anita Hill said her husband said and did sexually inappropriate things and since it’s been almost twenty years since Clarence Thomas was confirmed, isn’t time for Hill to take that all back.
In other words, Virginia Thomas wants to make this about Anita Hill’s decision to speak truth to power and not her own decision to make money from it.
The triangluation-as-deflection maneuver is a nasty kind of playground ploy, one as parents we see over and over again. As a parent, I try to instill in my kids a sense of personal responsibility and integrity. I want them to be able to work out their differences with other kids. I want them to understand how conflicts happen and can be resolved. Whether or not Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas should ever have a conversation in which forgiveness is on the table — and just who should be forgiving whom — is territory that belongs to Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas alone. The impulse Virginia Thomas showed over the weekend, the impulse to deflect attention from our own actions and to triangulate is strong in all of us, children and adults alike, but that doesn’t make it right.