Ethics Dunce: The Smithsonian Institution

anita-hill

The new Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is intended to celebrate the two aspects of African American influence on the nation mentioned in the title, and that includes honoring  influential and historically significant African American leaders. Among the figures ignored by the museum’s displays is Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, only the second black member of the Supreme Court. The museum does, however, celebrate the “heroism” of his last-minute accuser at Thomas’s confirmation hearings, law professor Anita Hill.

This is another and particularly sad reflection of the petty partisan bias and lack of integrity demonstrated by the Obama Administration at so many levels. It is stuffed with so many intractable ideologues, and often incompetent ideologues, that objectivity, respect and fairness are frequently too great an effort to muster. The museum honors Hill, who was recruited as a last ditch effort by Democrats to block President George H.W. Bush’s nomination of a black conservative judge to the Supreme Court and whose accusations of sexual harassment were never verified except by the confirmation bias of Democrats and Thomas’s enemies. It chose to snubThomas, which all involved had to know would be seen as an insult to the Justice, and a calculated one.

By all logic and reason, Hill should be, at best, a footnote to a Thomas display. Mean-spirited bias from the empowered Left under Obama has extended even to museum curating, which should be non-partisan.

Blogs George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley,

The failure to honor Thomas, in my view, is outrageous. His life story is not just one of the inspiring accounts in African American history, it is one of the most inspiring of American history. His triumph over abject poverty and discrimination should be celebrated by all Americans regardless of how you view his jurisprudential views.

Ah, but you see, such objectivity is impossible for the angry race-hustlers and historical air-brushers collected by President Obama in all corners of his government.

Turley finds the official explanation for Thomas’s omission insultingly disingenuous, and so do I. Chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian, Linda St. Thomas said that “there are many compelling personal stories about African Americans who have become successful in various fields, and, obviously, Associate Justice Thomas is one of them. However, we cannot tell every story in our inaugural exhibitions.”

How, exactly, does Anita Hill, a former Thomas sycophant who has built a lucrative celebrity speaking career on her willingness to turn a Senate confirmation into a tawdry he said/she said debate over jokes about pubic hairs on Coke cans in order to deliver a late hit on a distinguished black jurist’s career and reputation, qualify under that description? In what area is Hill so successful that she deserves an exhibit on the National Mall, while the far more influential and historically significant  black man she smeared is insulted and marginalized?

Anita Hill’s lasting significance is that she represents, even now, a low-point in recent partisan warfare, and an abject demonstration of the hypocrisy of the women’s movement, which “believed Anita Hill” while choosing to disbelieve more credible and more seriously aggrieved accusers of their political ally, Bill Clinton. Clarence Thomas, in contrast, had had and will continue to have as lasting and important effects on our nation’s laws and culture as any African American, including Barack Obama. Yet they just couldn’t fit him in!

Right.

Until it is rectified, the snub mars the museum and the integrity of its mission far more than it harms Thomas. For now, it stands as a monument to the narrow-minded partisan bias and divisive politics of the civil rights establishment, Democrats, and Barack Obama. It would have been so, so easy to take the high road, and put partisan squabbles behind, giving the much-maligned Thomas his fair share of credit and honor, and they just couldn’t raise the character to do it.

I also note that not one mainstream media publication or news source that isn’t derided as “conservative” has seen fit to criticize the decision to insult Clarence Thomas this way. This stands as just one more monument to their own biases.

18 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society

18 responses to “Ethics Dunce: The Smithsonian Institution

  1. charlesgreen

    I don’t agree with any of your comments about Anita Hill or Obama, but that should go to strengthen your main point, which stands on its own merits: this is a mean-spirited and historic snub of Thomas. Such a snub is wrong and unjustifiable. And while I disagree with nearly all Thomas’s viewpoints, that also does not make his snub any less wrong.

    • Exactly, Charles.

      When we get together face to face, which I hope happens before I shrivel to dust, (and I’ll be buying), remember to add a justification for Hill to the long list of topics we should discuss. Because I found her stand despicable and unfair then, and the degree to which she was defended even worse. When one has no evidence and has waited 20 years, when there is no prior record of the accused to support the accusation, witnesses or evidence, then such an act simply is a malicious one designed to ruin a life based on rumor alone. She should not have been allowed to testify, especially since she wasn’t even alleging a violation of law—the sexual harassment laws post-dated her claims. Since unlike a President, a SCOTUS judge is chosen based on a specific skill, not overall character (If there was worse, more sexist bounder than William O. Douglas, I wouldn’t want to meet him), so what she was doing was literally a smear. No lawyer would be disciplined than on her representations, even if proven true.

      The question I’d ask today, however, is whether you really think partisan bias isn’t behind the snub, and why Obama, who surely was involved (or should have been) wouldn’t do the right thing and fix it early on?

      • Jack asked, “why Obama, who surely was involved (or should have been) wouldn’t do the right thing and fix it early on?”

        Fat chance of that ever happening! My opinion is that Obama is clearly an “ends justify the means” kind of guy. Here’s how critical thinking works for Obama, Conservatives are wrong, there ends the critical thinking for Obama which will immediately be followed by justifications and rationalizations.

      • charlesgreen

        Thanks for the gracious invite – I gladly accept, though I’ll be buying.

        I don’t know enough about the Hill/Thomas debacle to confidently argue against you re the propriety of what she did.

        However, I wonder about your comment, “[why] Obama, who surely was involved (or should have been) wouldn’t do the right thing and fix it early on?”

        I wondered about the propriety of the president involving him or herself in a dispute with the Smithsonian. Here’s what I found googling “Smithsonian governance:”

        Congress vested responsibility for the administration of the Smithsonian in a Board of Regents, consisting of the Chief Justice of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, three members of the United States Senate, three members of the United States House of Representatives, and nine citizens. The Board of Regents meets at least four times each year and typically convenes in the Regents Room.

        So – maybe you should take up the complaint with Chief Justice Roberts? Or maybe with the Republican Senate Leadership? Or the Republican House? My guess is if the executive branch (in the form of Vice President Biden) chose to intervene, he’d have been overruled quickly.

        That said, I do agree that partisan bias is behind the issue, and it’s no less deplorable for not having Obama’s fingerprints on it.

  2. History is being rewritten one sentence at a time. It’s a painstakingly slow process but the twisted lefty versions will become dominate, you will be assimilated, the whole truth be damned.

  3. deery

    Unfortunately for Thomas, the most notable thing for him was the Anita Hill hearings. He was the second black Supreme Court Justice, not the first, and the second of anything doesn’t get nearly the accolades and fame as the first.

    Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court Justice, was a noted advocate for civil rights, and argued the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education overturning school segregation before he was ever appointed to the Supreme Court. Once there, he also made his mark on many decisions involving the death penalty, criminal law, and women’s rights.

    Clarence Thomas, on the other hand, has had a very non-distinguished career. He was basically unknown before being appointed, and after his appointment has not been trusted to author any of the big decisions, and is mostly known for almost never asking a question during oral arguments. That would make a sad display indeed.

    I have already been to the African-American Museum, and it is quite wonderful and moving. But is jam-packed with stuff and information. I wonder what historical display people would have them toss to make way for a poor-to-middling judge with no notable achievements? He is in the museum after all, as Jack noted, just not in the hagiographic light his supporters would prefer him to be in. But, as far as I can determine, he has done nothing for that to happen.

    • With rare exceptions, most SCOTUS nominees are unknown to the public. Marshall was an exception. He was also a pretty poor justice—bad writer, pure ideologue. His liberal brethren Black and Douglas, Brennan got the most important opinions to write. In terms of opinions, Thomas’s are much better reasoned and written. He has also authored some important opinions,and provocative dissents. Do you read SCOTUS opinions? I do, and though Thomas is too far right for me, he’s an original thinker.

      From Turley:

      Thomas has the quintessential American story of perseverance and ambition in overcoming odds that would have left many in hopeless despair. Clarence Thomas was born on the Georgia coast in Pin Point, Georgia, on June 23, 1948. He grew up speaking Gullah, the creole dialect. His home was a one-room shack with dirt floors and no plumbing. He grew up without a Dad, who left him at two. As a result, at the age of seven he and his younger brother were sent to live with their grandfather, Myers Anderson, and his wife in Savannah, Georgia. He used his Catholic education to overcome segregation and prejudice to eventually go to Holy Cross and gained admission to Yale, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania law schools. After a series of legal positions, he became the chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1982 and later became just the second African American to join the Court.

      Exhibit? That would make a great MOVIE.

      He’s written over 300 opinions. Usually Scalia, acknowledged as one of the best writers on the Court, got the nod when a major conservative decision was handed down, but now Thomas’s voice will be louder. He’s written over 300 opinions, and many have been cited and quoted frequently. There is literally no such thing as an unimportant Supreme Court Justice—every one of them is more important than 90% of all the Senators who have ever served.

      • deery

        Thomas has the quintessential American story of perseverance and ambition in overcoming odds that would have left many in hopeless despair. Clarence Thomas was born on the Georgia coast in Pin Point, Georgia, on June 23, 1948. He grew up speaking Gullah, the creole dialect. His home was a one-room shack with dirt floors and no plumbing. He grew up without a Dad, who left him at two. As a result, at the age of seven he and his younger brother were sent to live with their grandfather, Myers Anderson, and his wife in Savannah, Georgia. He used his Catholic education to overcome segregation and prejudice to eventually go to Holy Cross and gained admission to Yale, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania law schools. After a series of legal positions, he became the chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1982 and later became just the second African American to join the Court.

        Yes, that’s all nice. But what has he done besides be poor and then be one of the few justices that were both black and conservative enough to qualify as a Justice? What landmark decisions has he argued or authored? He gets mostly scut work.

        I have met Thomas in passing, btw. He seems, on a personal level to be an ok guy. But someone deserving the hagiographic treatment, probably not. He is in the museum, just not in the role that he might wish, even though that is almost certainly the role that he will most be known for even a hundred years from now.

        Marshall would have had a role in this museum even without the Supreme Court to top off a long illustrious career as a strong advocate for civil rights. Thomas cannot be compared in any way to that. Thomas has his own place in history, and while it isn’t pretty, it would be a serious case of revisionism to ignore the most salient thing he is known for. I understand completely why he would not like that. But it is what it is.

        • He’s a Supreme Court Justice, and that is an epic achievement for anyone, black or white, male or female.The black liberal establishment will never forgive him for opposing affirmative action and being a conservative. That’s all there is to it, and you should have the integrity to admit it. Sonia Sotamayor makes his scholarship look like Brandeis by comparison: her opinions are an embarrassment. Do you really think that when the inevitable “Hiispanic-American Museum” debuts, her knee-jerk liberal opinions won’t be all it takes to give her a starring role?

          A little honesty and objectivity would be appreciated.

          • deery

            I think Thomas is a weak Justice, as far as these things are reckoned. I disagreed vehemently with Scalia’s decisions, but I doubt anyone could cast aspersions on his abilities and influence as a Justice.

            Sotomayor is still early in her career, so I reserve opinion, but at the very least, she has a claim to being a first. Thomas has neither brilliance nor “a first.” Once again, he is mostly known precisely for the Anita Hill hearings than anything else. That, and being silent/sleeping on the bench. So I don’t think that it is inappropriate that he is in the museum, but mostly mentioned in the Anita Hill section. Thurgood Marshall has his own little display, but this was because he was so heavily involved in so many landmark civil rights cases. It ties in thematically to much of the other civil rights displays as you are winding your way up from the ground floor (the below level floors give you a roughly chronological history of black America progressing your way up to ground level. The top floors are devoted to art/sports/music/culture). Thee aren’t isolated displays, but they actually fit into an overall thematic narrative. I think that Thomas belongs in the museum right where he is, at least for now. The director of the museum has already noted that they have far more in storage than they could ever display, and they will be changing themes and displays on a regular basis. But they have over 40,000 pieces and can only display about 3,500, less than 10%. Choices have to be made. https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/museums/a-thorny-question-for-african-american-museum-whose-story-do-we-tell/2016/07/29/2c76f274-4cf8-11e6-a422-83ab49ed5e6a_story.html

            • Thomas articulates his very conservative judicial philosophy well: what’s a “weak” justice? Based on his opinions, he’s stronger than Marshall, who was just a knee-jerk vote on a liberal court. Kennedy’s opinions are weak, though he is the swing vote. You say he’s weak because you disagree with him: that’s bull. He’s one of two black justices in 250 years of history, and again, you should have the integrity to admit that he’s a lot more important and a credit to his race than an obscure law professor with a vendetta who is only known BECAUSE of Thomas.

            • Kyjo

              Why does Hill deserve special mention in the museum? I suppose reasonable people could disagree over whether omitting Thomas altogether would be justified, but making Thomas a footnote to Hill is a deliberate and outrageous insult.

    • JutGory

      The second does not matter as much as the first?
      Only to progressive ideologues who only view things as they relate to race, gender, orientation, etc.

      If what you say is true, would you please tell Sotomayor to pipe down about her Latina crap? Between O’Connor and Cardozo, she’s nothing special; same could be said about Ginsburg.

      -Jut

      • deery

        Of course the second, in and of itself, does not matter as much as the first. That’s why the second only gets a silver medal. It is why everyone knows who the first person to step on the moon, the first president of the United States, the first European baby born in the United States, but comparatively fewer know the second person to do such. It just isn’t as notable. Now the second can achieve things in their own right, but first, in our culture, seems to be an achievement in and of itself.

        • JutGory

          The election of Barack Obama has demonstrated the uselessness of that line of thought. Suddenly, we want to elect someone just so that we can vote for the first black president, regardless of the fact that he was the least qualified person to hold the office in the last 100 or more years.

          His election has borne horrible fruit: 1) millions of people who now want to vote for the first female president; and 2) millions of people who now realize that anyone, including some foul-mouthed idiot star of a reality show is eligible for president.

          When being “first X to do Y” becomes the goal, you are going to make judgments based upon the wrong criteria. It does not matter that Hillary is a horrible candidate and represents what is most ugly in politics, we could “make history (herstory?)” by electing her president!

          Morons!

          -Jut

  4. luckyesteeyoreman

    Going by the standard that the Smithsonian has set by coverage of Anita Hill while airbrushing out Clarence Thomas, I next expect the Smithsonian to add an exhibit of equivalent scope and seriousness about Lee Harvey Oswald while airbrushing out Jack Kennedy…or, about Sirhan Sirhan (and gun control – yeah, THAT!) with no mention of Robert Kennedy. Surely some federally controlled museum already exalts, or plans to exalt, one of modern America’s earliest examples of Islamic extremism – trailblazer Sirhan.

  5. Cynical John

    And who presented Anita Hill with an award from the American Bar Association (one of the reasons I quite the ABA)? None other than Hillary.

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