Cry of "Lynching" Opens Wounds

By Lynne Duke and Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, October 13, 1991

Clarence Thomas hit a nerve among black Americans yesterday by angrily portraying himself a victim of historical racial stereotypes about the alleged sexual prowess of black men.

To many black people, all too familiar with such unseemly images, Thomas's words resonated deeply and personally, evoking a range of emotional responses. Some blacks felt uneasy watching other blacks at center stage in a drama that has mired the Senate confirmation process in sleaze.

Some wondered whether Thomas is simply using the politics of race to rescue his endangered nomination to the Supreme Court. Still others said angrily that they have seen this before: a black man on the ascent being cut down.

In defending himself against allegations that he graphically described his sexual abilities and the size of his penis to former assistant Anita Hill, Thomas fumed and said he was being "lynched."

"That kind of language has been used about black men as long as I've been on the face of this earth, and these are charges that play into racist, bigoted sterotypes," Thomas told the all-white Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.

If it is a lynching, Thomas isn't the only victim, said Adrienne Massey, 25, a vendor at a Washington black memorabilia show where many people listened to the Thomas hearings on the radio.

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© 1991 The Washington Post Company