Thursday, September 30, 2011— October’s fullest moon (“Hunter’s”) will rise on the 20th.
In 1991, like so many viewers, I saw on television Anita Hill’s testimony before a judicial selection committee, which consisted of 14 white male Senators, chaired by Senator Joe Biden. That committee was vetting Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court and listening to Hill’s description of sexual harassment incidences from Thomas. She previously worked for Thomas on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Hill’s testimony was a first of its kind in a Supreme Court nominee’s hearing. That all-white male panel grilled Hill without mercy, working hard to disregard and dismiss her testimony. Afterwards, the Senate confirmed Thomas’ nomination in a 52-48 vote.
In those days, Hill was a publicity-shy attorney, immersed professionally in arcane aspects of commercial and contract law. After earning a J.D. at Yale in 1980, she primarily focused on legalities associated to her specific areas of interest.
While testifying thirty years ago, Hill appeared unaggressive but direct, seemed personally rather quiet and unassuming. The rumor was that opponents of Thomas’ selection on discovering Hill’s experience had pushed hard for her to appear and testify.
Immediately, Hill’s life changed. She was condemned by many and received death threats. I was incensed by how her testimony had been received, how she had been treated. I wrote a long supportive letter, but couldn’t find a viable address. She was associated with the U. of Oklahoma, so I sent it there, never heard back.
Well, after all, Anita Hill wasn’t so quiet and unassuming. Following her experience, she’s continued moving forward, and today, offers in her new book an expanded understanding of that early 90s experience, its social and legal aspects. Moreover, she has teamed with Christine Blasey Ford, another pained victim of the American judicial selection process. They discuss their experiences, known-injustices to women and other minorities, and speak to changes needed.
Hill’s totally updated, and again in the spotlight as an American lawyer, legal scholar, educator and author. She’s with Brandeis University as a professor of social policy, law, and women’s studies. She’s also on the faculty of that university’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management.
Dear Friends: Hill’s talk with Amanpour, a “don’t miss”, is on streaming and podcast media. Diana