Anita Hill, still courageous 20 years later

I almost lost my breakfast this morning when the Tom Joyner Morning Show news break informed me about Virginia Thomas’ antics. Almost 20 years after the fact, this is what Clarence Thomas’ wife had to say to Anita Hill, via ABC NEWS:

Good morning, Anita Hill, it’s Ginny Thomas,” said the voice. “I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. OK, have a good day.

I had one of those “I wish a blinkety-blank-blank-blank woman would” moments. And it didn’t help that the woman commentator on the Tom Joyner Morning Show chuckled after she mentioned that Ms. Hill had contacted the FBI, as if she was being accused of overreacting all over again.

Yet, I am glad that this story has resurfaced. This brief encounter reminds us that Ms. Hill is still as heroic as she was in 1992. She is still that woman who, when wronged, will  contact the proper authorities (campus police), request an investigation (FBI) and face her aggressor squarely:

Hill told ABC News: “Even if it wasn’t a prank, it was in no way conciliatory for her to begin with the presumption that I did something wrong in 1991. I simply testified to the truth of my experience. For her to say otherwise is not extending an olive branch, it’s accusatory.”

She continued: “I don’t apologize. I have no intention of apologizing, and I stand by my testimony in 1991.”

Twenty years later, I still believe Anita Hill.

How many women among us can say that we have sought justice when we were wronged? How many of us can say that we are willing to stand up to male privilege and the many emissaries (wives included) who will be dispatched to throw the kitchen sink at us when it’s our word against a man’s?

I could tell you a thing or two about how familiar Virginia’s solicitation of an apology is, how it reeks of white condescension and entitlement. But I have no more room in my activism for the Virginia Thomases of the world. All I can think about is how I can generate the endless courage of Anita Hill in myself and all my sisters. I suspect that if I had half of Anita Hill’s courage, it would last me 10 lifetimes of fighting against patriarchy in an employment system that largely only combats discrimination after a complaint has been made. Thank you Anita Hill for taking a stand nearly 20 years ago and for all you continue to do now to stand up for yourself.

See more on Anita Hill here and how she found the courage to take a stand from within and from 30,000 women across America who supported her as she sought justice.

Join the Conversation

  • Franzia Kafka

    Yah, I heard this on NPR this morning and thought … wtf? It’s so effing random. Was Virginia Thomas on some kind of bender and suddenly had the epiphany that her life just wouldn’t be complete, 20 years later, without an apology from her husband’s victim? Was this the result of some random game of truth-or-dare? I mean, really. Who the fuck does that, anyway?

    • jillian

      you’re right. it really does read like some drunk-dialing fustercluck, or the current propensity to make a fool of yourself on facebook or twitter.

    • James

      Consider that Virginia Thomas is a major figure in the Tea Party movement.

      Consider also that it’s two weeks before a key midterm that could determine not only the course of the next two years of American politics, but possibly the course of the next ten.

      Whose interest is served in stirring up hate now against an African-American woman who had the audacity to suggest that her boss shouldn’t be allowed to sexually harass her, and had the further audacity to try to keep him off the Supreme Court because he sexually harassed her?

      I don’t think this is taking place in isolation. I don’t have any evidence, but it feels for all the world like this is part of a campaign to whip up white male hate in the run-up to an election.

  • onlynow

    “She is still that woman who, when wronged, will contact the proper authorities (campus police), request an investigation (FBI) and face her aggressor squarely:”

    Please explain why a phone message such as this requires a police report and an FBI investigation. I can see nothing threatening or criminal in it. A request for an apology, as wrongheaded as it may be, is not a federal issue. So yes, it seems like an over-reaction.

    • Franzia Kafka

      Uh, if I was her, I can say for sure that I want anything that happened to be thoroughly legally documented. Second, she thought it was a prank, which would be a bit scary.

      It’s not like she personally *asked* for it to be referred to the FBI and they complied. :/

    • Matt

      The report was because Anita Hill thought the call wasn’t actually from Virginia Thomas, but from an impersonator intending to harass her. I’d expect that she has probably been the target of a number of criminal phone calls regarding her testimony, and this call may not have been distinctly different from all the rest.

    • Stephanie

      It’s referring to her actions 20 years ago, not to her reaction to the recent message.

    • Heather

      The phone message deserved a call to the campus police, considering Prof Hill had every reason to believe it a prank call at first. The original harassment charges deserved an investigation. Or, that’s how I read the post.

    • jillian

      from what ive read, ms. hill thought it was a prank and reported it to campus authorities, they in turn brought it to the higher authorities.

    • Emily

      The wife of the man who sexually harassed her called her out of the blue and asked for an apology for testifying against her husband. You don’t think that could be a bit damaging and opening old wounds? Why would Virginia Thomas do that? Her “olive branch” story is crap. This is a further attempt to harass and intimidate the victim. Contacting the authorities was absolutely the right thing to do because, while the phone message itself may seem harmless, it suggests some sinister intentions.

      • onlynow

        I agree with you about the inappropriateness of the call and the questionable motivations of Virginia Thomas. I was questioning whether it constitutes legally actionable harassment, because no threat was made and it was not a repeated or reoccurring action. Apparently it isn’t, because the WaPo reports that “Law enforcement sources said the FBI is not investigating because there is no apparent federal crime.” That doesn’t mean it wasn’t rude or obnoxious of course, just not illegal.

  • Jessica “Jess” Victoria Carillo

    Way to go Anita!!!!! You go sister!

  • Sophie

    Hey, being a teenager, I don’t know any of the back story. If someone could comment and explain, i would appreciate it! Thanks!

    • Jessica “Jess” Victoria Carillo

      I was a baby during that time, but let me give you some details I know of: Clarence Thomas was being considered for Supreme Court Justice by then President George H.W. Bush and had a attorney/advisor by the name of Anita Hill. Anita was your ordinary working woman making it in the world and didn’t expect that her boss would be making lewd comments to her (talking about porn sex acts, rape scenes, bragged about how hot he is in bed, and yelled out about who put a PUBIC hair in his Coke). During the hearings, he screamed that this was “high-tech lynching.” The Independent Womens Forum started because of this (read “Manifesta” if you don’t believe me).
      That’s what I know.

  • Matt

    I can’t do the original story justice, but I can say Virginia Thomas is in a poor position to affirm what her husband did or did not do. She is not a witness to her husband’s conduct at work. The two people in any real position to say anything regarding that are Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, and any sort of “resolution” really should involve the two of them directly, or possibly with them involved both indirectly. Stepping into the middle of that conflict, with self-interest, to make the issue fester again, and then to make an accusation and have the nerve to call that attack an olive branch is out of line.

    Notably, this conclusion is reached without even having to establish the accuracy of Anita Hill’s testimony. It is tempting to look at this incident through the prism of 20 years ago, and the history lesson can provide some benefits, but this current event can be judged well-enough on its own merits.

  • Miz James

    You had me up until your characterization of how Virginia’s solicitation of an apology “reeks of white condescension and entitlement”. Condescension, yes. Entitlement, yes. But why “white” condescension and entitlement”? Because she’s white? (I had to Google her pic to learn this by the way).

    I read this story with the same mixture of disbelief and outrage as many of my sisters, but never once did I think, “Wow, she sounds really, really WHITE.”

    • Kayle Moore

      Um , this is convoluted, but let me attempt an explanation.
      While I really think it is more a matter of singlism & a woman attempting to use attachment to male power to wield privilege over another woman, I would argue that due to the nature of the history of sexualizing and demonizing black women v. white women in this country, black women are more likely to be a target of such behaviors. Victim blaming is AUTOMATIC when the victim of sexual assault or harassment is a black woman, because a black woman is not presumed to be a vessel of innocence the way white women traditionally are. That is why black women’s rapists are convicted at a lower rate. Ever notice that a black woman, regardless of socio-economic status and education is PRESUMED to be or have been promiscuous and that a black woman walking down the street is more likely to be presumed a prostitute? Ever notice that most of the prostitutes on TV women are of color?
      Ever notice that regardless of context, a black woman is always presumed to have been “duped” and used as a “pawn” when challenging power or presenting an unpopular opinion?? This because black women are presumed to have the LEAST capacity for decision-making in this society, and YES, LESS THAN WHITE WOMEN, especially where sex is concerned.
      Black women are also more likely to be single, compounding the likelihood that they will be targeted by the above biases.
      And then there’s this, from a discussion of the women (white, obviously) on Mad Men:
      “Joan in the abortion provider’s waiting room.
      She is so freakin composed, even in the most emotionally intense situations. I think that is one of the most interesting aspects of the kind of femininity her character has come to represent- the unflappability, the unyielding drive to do anything to keep up appearances. In this sense, she and Betty are of the same camp- they were either raised or came to know the social value of being perceived in a certain way at all times. In one sense, this is the key to being “classy” and thus the key to their social influence and power (by association) . In another sense, this is their prison, stifling their ability to express themselves, to the point of self-denial. -Lori”

      Historically, black women have never had access to “being ‘classy'” in the eyes of this country, so yes, when a white woman attached to a man in power tells a black woman the way Mrs. Thomas did that she would like an apology for having complaining about being abused because it made her life difficult, hell yes, that is white privilege!
      Hope that clears things up.