Pecola Breedlove's experiences in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye symbolize the internalization of sexism and racism. On the contrary, Anita Hill's willingness to stand up and speak out against a powerful male official represents the externalization of sexism and racism. Anita Hill lacks the self-hatred embodied by the character of Pecola, but in spite of her confidence and poise, lacks the power or wherewithal to undermine institutionalized sexism. Although Hill had an opportunity to make the personal political, her failure to convince members of the Senate about Clarence Thomas's misconduct highlights the ongoing struggles for all women and especially women of color to reclaim power. When The Bluest Eye was written, the prospects for women of color were even poorer than they were when Anita Hill testified. Yet the outcome of Hill's testimony proves that patriarchy remains entrenched in American society.
A core similarity between Anita Hill's experience and that of Pecola Breedlove is the exploitative nature of their sexual experiences. Although Pecola was brutally raped and Hill less so, both of the male perpetrators use their sexuality as a weapon to control the women in their lives. Under oath, Hill claims that Clarence Thomas measured the length of his penis and called it "Long Dong Silver." Hill also tells the committee that Thomas directly referred to his sexual potency using graphic terms. Likewise, Cholly rapes both his wife and daughter in several scenes in The Bluest...
Thus, Morrison embeds double meaning into the title of the novel, which refers both to Pecola's desire for whiteness and to the black and blue eyes that result from being beaten.
Race became an ironic issue in the Hill case because Clarence Thomas uses race in his defense. Among an audience of mainly white peers, Thomas claims that disbelieving him would essentially amount to racism: the belief that he was an "uppity" black man. Commentators in the documentary note that the white contingency did not want to give off the appearance of "going after a black man" who claimed he did not do it. Thomas lacks white privilege, but he certainly enjoys the privilege of being male. Whereas Thomas receives the backing of male compatriots, Hill has no such support. The intersection of gender and race places Anita Hill in a subordinate position; Pecola adds low social class status and is therefore completely lacking in political power. The documentary Anita refers to the "political lion's den" of white men opposing and silencing the black woman. Instead of Thomas being on trial, it was Anita. Hill herself claims, "I was on trial ... the issue became my character." Hill's character had nothing logically to do with whether or not Thomas was guilty; what mattered was the political expediency of replacing a black Supreme Court justice with another.
Both Anita Hill and Pecola therefore become alienated and ostracized…
Cultural identity formation theories reveal the intersections between race, class, gender, sexuality, status, self-concept, and power. Applying critical race theory and racial identity development models to social work can prove tremendously helpful and promotes the overall goals of the profession. It is not just about becoming more culturally competent and aware of structural racism and other factors that might be affecting clients; the work of increasing cultural competence means becoming
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