Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Thomas, Thomas and Hill

Choosing the subject of a blog post is difficult. On one hand, there’s a plethora of subjects I could describe and analyze, on the other, there’s the challenge of having something original, interesting or knowledgeable to share. On any given day, there are more developments with international law ramifications than I could hope to address even if I blogged daily. For example, as I prepared for today’s post, I mulled several topics: the popular movement in Myanmar and the military's vigorous repression of it; the New York Times' report on the good times rolling in the once would-be breakaway Russian Republic of Chechnya, and a UN Tribunal’s rejection of Guyana's claim for reparations against Suriname. At the same time I was pondering a student’s comment that he felt compelled to study international law “because we seem to hear nothing but bad news every day, and we need to understand what’s going on.” Can someone start a good news channel? So that we don’t learn the names and faces of our neighbors on the planet only when something bad – earthquake, hurricane, coup – is happening to them.
And yet, today I turn to the subject of Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill and Isiah Thomas of the New York Knicks.

Justice Thomas appeared on Sunday's 60 Minutes to publicize the newly issued book which he inveighs once more against his “high tech lynching” in 1991. Professor Hill’s classy rebuttal was published in yesterday’s New York Times. Also yesterday, the Times reported the $11.6 million judgment against Isaiah Thomas and the New York Knicks in much-publicized sexual discrimmination suit. In a deposition given earlier in the proceedings, Thomas appeared to hold the view that black men have permission to address black women as “bitches” and “hos” in a way that white men do not. Everything that I could have hoped to say on the Justice Thomas/Anita Hill matter was said more thoroughly, knowledgeably and piercingly by Professor Sherrilyn Ifill on Blackprof.com.
So this blog post isn’t even about international law. The Justice Thomas/Isiah Thomas news items are coincidentally linked in time. Are they linked in any other way? Do they (depressing thought) signify a non-evolution in the status of black women among their male peers? Or merely completely aberrational circumstances in two vastly different work environments 16 years apart? Harvard Professor
Orlando Patterson points to endemic familial dysfunction in the black community. There’s little comfort in the thought that, at the very least, whatever the attitudes of Isiah Thomas toward women, including black women, the consequences of his acting upon those attitudes are more limited in scope than are the potential consequences of the interaction of Justice Thomas’s hurt psyche and his power as a Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.

(photo of Anita Hill courtesy of Brandeis University, where she is Professor of Social Policy, Law and Women's Studies)

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