Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has offered today’s parents a teachable moment in manners.
It’s important for kids to learn to say they’re sorry, and also not a bad idea to remind others to do so. The ever classy Virginia Thomas hasn’t let time or dignity or convincing testimony get in the way of reasonable demands for good behavior. Which is why she called Anita Hill this weekend to demand a long overdue apology for accusing Justice Thomas of sexually harassing her.
Now, assuming her voice mail to Anita Hill wasn’t just the capper on a weekend of drunk-dialing, it’s clear that even the benevolent Ms. Thomas has a few things to learn about good manners and forgiveness — those building blocks of character we so hope to instill in our children. I see 4 areas she needs to work on.
1. Be genuine
Now, come on, Virginia. A phone call in the early morning? On a weekend? You didn’t want to speak directly to Anita Hill, you wanted to get her voice mail. It’s a classic avoidance behavior and it reeks of dishonesty, insecurity and a lack of control. Genuine apologies should open dialogue.
2. Know the players
You’ve confused the apologizer with the apologizee. Classic teacher’s pet problem. Remember, the Senate Judiciary Committee isn’t a court of law. Just because enough of the mostly male group basically ignored Anita Hill’s testimony doesn’t mean certain people under discussion didn’t say very specific and icky things about a besmirched Coke can.
3. “Sorry” can’t be forced
Apologies have to come from a place of honesty, from the heart. You can’t force someone to feel apologetic if they don’t. It’s difficult — and, any preschool teacher will tell you this, unwarranted — to apologize for telling the truth. Especially if coming forward and speaking the truth was a huge media circus, meant repeating gross and undignified things on national television, and changed your life forever.
4. Don’t be a bully
Dragging Anita Hill back into the spotlight and reminding her and everyone else of Clarence Thomas’s inappropriate and demeaning behavior is grown-up bullying. It’s sort of like repeating “ha, ha, you cried when I punched you in the face” at circle time after punching that person in the face before circle time. What’s next? Trying to get everyone to defriend Hill on Facebook? Of course, like any bully, Virginia Thomas’s demand for an apology is actually a ploy for attention and sign of problems at home.
Anita Hill is quite schooled on how to handle bullies, it would appear. Not only did she punched back by going public with the message, she went to the police.
Here’s another lesson for Virginia Thomas.
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