Her story may have faded from headlines. But we are still thinking of Anita Hill.
Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 that Clarence Thomas, then Supreme Court nominee, had sexually harassed her.
During the 1991 Hill hearings, about 1,600 women of African descent stood in solidarity with Hill through a full-page layout ad “African American Women in Defense of Ourselves.” But the letter stood in stark contrast to the reality of popular opinion among Black women and men. Many in the Black community shamed, humiliated, and chose racial allegiance to Thomas over allegiance to Ms. Hill as a Black woman. Every public opinion poll taken within hours of the confirmation hearings reflect that Ms. Hill was not believed by many of our mothers, fathers, grandparents, uncles and aunts. The Black community shut out Ms. Hill’s voice as she stood against Thomas.
For those of us who remember the hearings, we can easily recall the painful lessons learned during that time. Through Ms. Hill’s ridicule and demonization, Black women and girls learned that, in many cases, their own community — the Black community — will overlook and abandon them. Misogyny and internalized racism ran rampant as Ms. Hill boldly testified before the Committee. The hearings made headlines and sparked a national response. Still, despite the claims made against him, Thomas was confirmed.
Nearly three decades after Ms. Hill, another woman dared to stand against the confirmation of a man who had abused her: Christine Ford. Ford, a California professor, accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Mrs. Ford received overwhelming support by a community representative of all colors and genders. And it was beautiful.
However, we cannot ignore that this was not the case for Ms. Hill. In 1991, society, at large, did not dare to say “I am Anita Hill,” let alone, “Believe Survivors,” except for that bold group of 1,600 Black feminists. Today, Hill's story serves as a call to action for us all, to value the stories of Black women and girls survivors. But much more than that, to do something with those words, to seek justice, healing, truth, and reconciliation.