Ralph Ellison in 1952 published a novel entitled The Invisible Man, about an black man who is regarded as invisible by mainstream society.
The invisible man is a good way to describe how one of the most prominent black men in American history is treated by the Smithsonian's new National Museum of African American history.
Yes, Justice Clarence Thomas, the second African American Supreme Court justice, who has written opinions that will have lasting effect, is the Smithsonian's invisible man. No reference to Justice Thomas at the museum.
Highly visible, on the other hand, is Anita Hill, whose last minute allegations of sexual harassment against Thomas nearly derailed his confirmation hearings.
Just for the record: Anita Hill's allegations against Justice Thomas remain in the realm of he-said/she-said. We just don't know who was telling the truth, though many of us (me included) tend to give the weight to Justice Thomas, based in part on what we know of his sterling character and gentlemanly demeanor and perseverance in the face of overwhelming opprobrium from Washington's liberal establishment.
Adam White at the Weekly Standard comments:
[T]he museum is a wonderful achievement, and long overdue. It should help to bring the American people still closer together, across racial or political lines, to celebrate America's best legacies while (like the nearby Holocaust Museum) remembering some of history's worst injustices.
But for that very reason, it's a shame to see the new museum marred by its own decision expunge from its historical narrative one of the most important African-American statesmen of our time: Justice Clarence Thomas.
Clarence Thomas overcame poverty, family strife, and racial prejudice to become the Supreme Court's second African-American justice. Even after joining the Court, he endured astonishing bigotry and hatred in public (as I recounted last summer in the Weekly Standard, from those who called him the helpless tool of white judges and clerks (Mary McGrory, Jane Mayer, and Jill Abramson), or who called him lazy (Linda Greenhouse), or who called him a "sputtering" angry man (Jeffrey Tobin), or who even wished him an early death by heart disease (Julianne Malveaux). In short, and to borrow from Juan Williams's eloquent words, Justice Thomas was "conveniently transformed" by bitter ideologues "into a monster about whom it is fair to say anything, to whom it is fair to do anything."
After 25 years, happily, much of that has faded into the background, as Justice Thomas's service on the Court finally came to overshadow Anita Hill's long-discredited accusations against him, at least among the broad majority of Americans who aren't still grinding their ideological axes against him. Today, Justice Thomas is better known for his work on the Court—which, whether you agree or disagree with him, is increasingly recognized for both its quality and quantity.
As to the former, he is often the Court's most eloquent defender of constitutional first principles. And as to the latter, he is far and away the Court's most productive member, in terms of his written opinions; in recent years, his output dwarfs that of his colleagues.
In light of his personal story, and his legacy on the Court, one would have expected, or at least hoped, to see some mention of Justice Thomas in the Smithsonian's new museum. But unfortunately that's not the case.
I am proud to work for an organization that was founded in part as a response to the frenzy of the mob that attacked Justice Thomas a quarter century ago at his confirmation hearings.
The Justice referred to it as a "high-tech lynching," and I am sorry to say that he had a point.
Ricky Silberman, one of our founders, knew Justice Thomas, had worked with him and was a close personal friend of his. She and other IWF founders agreed that the women who were purported to "speak for women" in the press did not represent us.
She knew that Justice Thomas was getting a raw deal.
It just happened again–and the slight came from an institution that receives contributions from the taxpayer.