Katherine Tate

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Invisible Woman

When Clarence Thomas called the Senate hearings a "high-tech lynching," he turned his confirmation into a race-loyalty test for blacks. Once again, the concerns of black women were obscured.

Political divisions within the black community are extremely rare. Not only do the overwhelming majority of black Americans vote Democratic in presidential races, but a majority also express fairly uniformly liberal views. Yet when President Bush nominated black conservative Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, early opinion polls showed blacks uncharacteristically divided. And when Anita Hill's allegation of sexual harassment became public, even more blacks came to favor Thomas. By the end of the special hearings, not only did opinion polls show that a majority of black Americans as well as whites believed Thomas over Hill, but blacks also sided with whites in favor of Thomas's confirmation. In the Thomas hearing, black opinion carried perhaps more weight than usual. In the final 52-48 vote, a number of his swing Southern Democratic backers in the Senate attributed much of their decision to Thomas's strong support in the black community. Black women's opinions were also crucial here...