To accuse anyone of sexual harassment is an enormous allegation. After being nominated to the United States Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas was investigated by the United States Senate because of charges of sexual harassment brought against him by Anita Hill, a former assistant. He stated in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was surprised, hurt, and extremely angered by the allegations. His expression of these emotions exhibits a distinct style. In his address to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Clarence Thomas uses parallel structure effectively to emphasize his ideas, to defend himself against personal attacks, and to describe the situation from his point of view.
Thomas often uses parallel structure to emphasize an idea. For example, early in his statement he says he has “No handlers, no advisors” (278). This parallel structure allows him to emphasize that his words are coming from his heart. Towards the end of his address, Thomas writes: “There is nothing this committee, this body or this entire country can do to give me my good name back” (282). The parallel structure in this bitter statement is used to make the reader think about what has been done to Thomas: the pain he’s been put through and the damage to his reputation.
Thomas also uses parallel structure when he defends his name. He describes himself “as a boss, as a friend, and as a human being . . .” (278); here he is explaining that he is just like any other person who is concerned about sexual harassment and believes that it is absolutely wrong. Later Thomas uses parallel structure to emphasize that he was always strictly professional towards his employees and coworkers: “I tried to treat them all cordially, professionally, and respectfully, and I tried to support them in their endeavors and be interested in and supportive of their success” (280). Finally, Thomas shows that he has pride and faith in his country and that he knows the truth will eventually come out when he says, “When there was segregation, I hoped there would be fairness one day or some day. When there was bigotry and prejudice, I hoped that there would be tolerance and understanding some day” (282).
Clarence Thomas felt alienated and so uses parallel sentence structures to emphasize the seriousness of his predicament. He describes the allegations against him as “very serious, very explosive and very sensitive” (280) in an attempt to make the reader see how extreme they are. Further, his anger and resentment towards the press is expressed when he says, “This is not American; this is Kafkaesque” (281). In another attempt to describe the situation, he tells the reader he has been victimized: “My name has been harmed. My integrity has been harmed. My character has been harmed. My family has been harmed. My friends have been harmed” (282). The parallel structure in these statements make for a powerful and straightforward testimony.
Clarence Thomas’s testimony was indeed effective. He was cleared to serve as a United States Supreme Court Justice, and the investigation and bad press were put to a stop as he requested. In large part, the credit goes to this address and its use of parallel structure to emphasize, explain, and defend his good name.
Thomas, Clarence. “Clarence Thomas’s Statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee.” 1991. A Practical Rhetoric for Writers. Steve Sansom, and Cher Brock. Fort Worth: Harcourt, 1996. 278-83.