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Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of Social Reality

Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of Social Reality

by Toni Morrison
Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of Social Reality

Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of Social Reality

by Toni Morrison

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Overview

It was perhaps the most wretchedly aspersive race and gender scandal of recent times: the dramatic testimony of Anita Hill at the Senate hearings on the confirmation of Clarence Thomas as Supreme Court Justice. Yet even as the televised proceedings shocked and galvanized viewers not only in this country but the world over, they cast a long shadow on essential issues that define America.

In Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power, Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison contributes an introduction and brings together eighteen provocative essays, all but one written especially for this book, by prominent and distinguished academicians—Black and white, male and female. These writings powerfully elucidate not only the racial and sexual but also the historical, political, cultural, legal, psychological, and linguistic aspects of a signal and revelatory moment in American history.

With contributions by:
Homi K. Bhabha, Margaret A. Burnham, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Paula Giddings, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., Claudia Brodsky Lacour, Wahneema Lubiano, Manning Marable, Nellie Y. McKay, Toni Morrison, Nell Irvin Painter, Gayle Pemberton, Andrew Ross, Christine Stansell, Carol M. Swain, Michael Thelwell, Kendall Thomas, Cornel West, Patricia J. Williams


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679741459
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/06/1992
Pages: 512
Product dimensions: 5.15(w) x 7.95(h) x 1.07(d)

About the Author

TONI MORRISON is the author of ten novels, from The Bluest Eye (1970) to A Mercy (2008). She has received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She lives in New York.

With contributions by:
Homi K. Bhabha, Margaret A. Burnham, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Paula Giddings, A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., Claudia Brodsky Lacour, Wahneema Lubiano, Manning Marable, Nellie Y. McKay, Toni Morrison, Nell Irvin Painter, Gayle Pemberton, Andrew Ross, Christine Stansell, Carol M. Swain, Michael Thelwell, Kendall Thomas, Cornel West, Patricia J. Williams

Hometown:

Princeton, New Jersey, and Manhattan

Date of Birth:

February 18, 1931

Date of Death:

August 5, 2019

Place of Birth:

Lorain, Ohio

Place of Death:

New York

Education:

Howard University, B.A. in English, 1953; Cornell, M.A., 1955

Read an Excerpt

from the Introduction:

Friday on the Potomac
Toni Morrison
 
 
Clusters of black people pray in front of the White House for the Lord not to abandon them, to intervene and crush the forces that would prevent a black nominee to the Supreme Court from assuming the seat felt by them to be reserved for a member of the race. Other groups of blacks stare at the television set, revolted by the president’s nomination of the one candidate they believe to be obviously unfit to adjudicate legal and policy matters concerning them. Everyone interested in the outcome of this nomination, regardless of race, class, gender, religion, or profession, turns to as many forms of media as are available. They read the Washington Post for verification of their dread of their hope, read the New York Times as though it were Pravda, searching between the lines of the official story for one that most nearly approximates what might really be happening. They read local papers to see if the reaction among their neighbors is similar to their own, or they try to figure out on what information their own response should be based. They have listened to newscasters and anchor people for the bits and bites that pointed to, or deflected attention from, the machinery of campaigns to reject or accept the nominee. They have watched television screens that seem to watch back, that dismiss viewers of call upon them for flavor, reinforcement, or routine dissent. Polls assure and shock, gratify and discredit those who took them into serious account.
 
But most of all, people talked to one another. There are passionate, sometimes acrimonious discussions between mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, husbands and wives, siblings, friends, acquaintances, colleagues with who, now, there is reason to embrace or to expel from their close circle. Sophisticated legal debates merge with locker-room guffaws; poised exchanges about the ethics and moral responsibilities of governance are debased by cold indifference to individual claims and private vulnerabilities. Organizations and individuals call senators and urge friends to do the same—providing opinions and information, threatening, cajoling, explaining positions, or simply saying, Confirm! Reject! Vote yes. Vote no.
 
These were some of the scenes stirred up by the debates leading to the confirmation of Clarence Thomas, the revelations and evasions within the testimony, and by the irrevocable mark placed on those hearings by Anita Hill’s accusations against the nominee. The points of the vector were all the plateaus of power and powerlessness: white men, black men, black women, white women, interracial couples; those with a traditionally conservative agenda, and those representing neoconservative conversions; citizens with radical and progressive programs; the full specter of the “pro” antagonists (“choice” and “life”); there were the publicly elected, the self-elected, the racial supremacists, the racial egalitarians, and nationalists of every stripe.
 
The intensity as well as the volume of these responses to the hearings were caused by more than the volatile content of the proceedings. The emptiness, the unforthcoming truths that lay at the center of the state’s performance contributed much to the frenzy as people grappled for meaning, for substance unavailable through ordinary channels. Michael Rustin has described race as “both an empty category and one of the most destructive and powerful forms of social categorization.” This paradox of a powerfully destructive emptiness can be used to illustrate the source of the confusion, the murk, the sense of helpless rage that accompanied the confirmation process.
 
It became clear, finally, what took place: a black male nominee to the Supreme Court was confirmed amid a controversy that raised and buried issues of profound social significance.
 
What is less clear is what happened, how it happened, why it happened; what implications may be drawn, what consequences may follow. For what was at stake during these hearings was history. In addition to what was taking place, something was happening. And as is almost always the case, the site of the exorcism of critical national issues was situated in the miasma of black life and inscribed on the bodies of black people.
 
[ . . . ]

Table of Contents

Introduction: Friday on the Potomac  vii
Toni Morrison

An Open Letter to Justice Clarence Thomas from a Federal Judicial Colleague  3
A. Leon Higginbotham. Jr.

The Private Parts of Justice  40
Andrew Ross

Clarence Thomas and the Crisis of Black Political Culture  61
Manning Marable

False, Fleeting, Perjured Clarence: Yale's Brightest and Blackest Go to Washington  86
Michael Thelwell

Doing Things with Words: "Racism" as Speech Act and the Undoing of Justice  127
Claudia Brodsky Lacour

A Rare Case Study of Muleheadedness and Men  159
Patricia J. Williams

A Sentimental Journey: James Baldwin and the Thomas-Hill Hearings  172
Gayle Pemberton

Hill, Thomas, and the Use of Racial Stereotype  200
Nell Irvin Painter

Double Standard, Double Blind: African-American Leadership After the Thomas Debacle  215
Carol M. Swain

A Good Judge of Character: Men, Metaphors, and the Common Culture  232
Homi K. Bhabha

White Feminisms and Black Realities: The Politics of Authenticity  251
Christine Stansell

Remembering Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas: What Really Happened When One Black Woman Spoke Out  269
Nellie Y. McKay

The Supreme Court Appointment Process and the Politics of Race and Sex  290
Margaret A. Burnham

Black Ladies, Welfare Queens, and State Minstrels: Ideological War by Narrative Means  323
Wahneema Lubiano

Strange Fruit  364
Kendall Thomas

Black Leadership and the Pitfalls of Racial Reasoning  390
Cornel West

Whose Story Is It, Anyway? Feminist and Antiracist Appropriation of Anita Hill  402
Kimberlé Crenshaw

The Last Taboo  441
Paula Giddings

About the Contributors  471

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