December 7, 2017
Think back to 1992, the Year of the Woman, Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas.
Now turn on the news, any channel.
We all know that history repeats itself, but how many times in one year? This year has truly been a year of repetitive history intensified and spiraling out of control.
It also goes to show that when history fails to nip an issue in the bud, it doesn’t disappear. It instead returns to the shadows of excuses as to how men are socialized, and genetically structured, rather than living on a surface that confronts the severity of sexual harassment amongst the 52% of the population that it directly affects.
This is what happened in 1992 during Clarence Thomas’ supreme court justice hearings and Anita Hill’s testimony. Twenty-five years later, if she would not have undergone the scrutiny that she did for speaking her truth, who is to say that so many other victims’ stories would be taken so seriously today? Anita Hill knew the risk that she was taking, “I was aware, however, that telling at any point in my career could adversely affect my future career.” She affirmed her decision by stating, “When I think of what has happened in a larger sense, beyond myself, then I would not change anything.”
It takes a certain kind of strength to make the bold and impactful decision that Ms. Hill did. As if maintaining her career as a black woman lawyer in the 90’s didn’t keep her hands full, she added the rare conversation of sexual assault and politics to the mix, which ensured huge setbacks for her professional endeavors. What it also ensured was that the country knew what type of supreme court justice it was swearing in. As far as we know for 2017, there are no supreme court justices currently being accused of sexual harassment or assault, but many other prominent figures are.
What Hill did not realize that she was paving the way for at the time, was the influx of women who she encouraged to become politically active. She also did not know that 25 years later the country would go a step further and elect a president accused of sexual assault, prompting another huge increase in women running for office. “I became the messenger that had to be killed,” she says. This sacrifice echoes into the past, present and future and to this day continues to empower women to demand respect, speak their truth and exercise their agency.
This agency has led to some men learning that it is not okay to overexert their power or use it to take advantage of women. Meanwhile, for some reason, political leaders are still late to the party on that one. Hopefully the continuing influx of women in office will change that, but true change comes when we discuss proper treatment of women at all levels of society and push back against the complacency of what are simply deemed as “male tendencies” when they negatively affect a woman.
As tends to be true of black women in history, Anita Hill had to be the sacrificial voice. She had to undergo scrutiny from media and even her own community for standing in her truth. As a result, we are now seeing consequences for disrespectful actions against women.
If we’ve learned nothing more from Anita Hill, 1992, 2017, and life in general, hopefully our takeaway is to speak our truth and stand in it firmly. Anita Hill’s boldness changed the landscape of women in politics and how we address sexual harassment; further confirming that eventually, women always reclaim their power, their voice, their truth.
Thank you Anita, for going out of your way to ensure that your voice echoes, to remind the next generation of women of the power in ours as well.
Naa-Shorme |Founder, Write to Live