A poignant part of law professor Anita Hill’s life will be portrayed by Kerry Washington in the upcoming HBO film Confirmation, which tells the story of Hill’s infamous confirmation hearing against then-Supreme Court justice nominee Clarence Thomas.
Hill sat down to discuss the sexual harassment allegations with Melissa Harris-Perry for Essence, how she felt about Washington’s portrayal of her, and why Thomas’ “high-tech lynching” metaphor is still as painstaking as the three-day hearing in 1991. Hill was 34 years old when she testified in front of the all-White, male Senate Judiciary Committee (which included Vice President Joe Biden). She told the panel she was harassed by Thomas for years while they worked side by side on Capitol Hill. With a media circus surrounding her, Hill remained vigilant as critics dubbed her a “race-traitor.”
Here are some takeaways from her interview with Harris-Perry.
How race and gender played a role in her testimony:
“Those members of Congress had never even considered that Black women had our own political voice. They assumed that Black men spoke for us. For an African-American woman to have her own political voice and own political position, and to believe that our perspective should be added to the conversation, was just something they hadn’t even considered. I think that’s why, politically, things changed. I think that’s why women became so agitated and so energized to make change on this important issue. And for Black women, it was like, Okay, we have to make sure we are speaking for ourselves.”
On the violent treatment of her family and approach by the SJC:
“Yes. I did find it outrageous. My grandfather was threatened with an actual lynching. It was 1905 and he homesteaded land. He settled his wife and eight children into a two-room cabin on his own land. It was obviously very modest, but it was his property. He believed in America’s promise and was ready to take advantage of all the opportunities it offered. Neither the federal government nor local authorities did what was necessary to enforce his right to own property. His land was taken away and he had to flee a real threat of lynching. The only thing I regret about this story is that we only tell my grandfather’s side. We never tell my grandmother’s part of the story. We didn’t grow up hearing the stories of African-American women suffering when their families were destroyed. We didn’t hear their point of view. I think that’s why the lynching metaphor was effective in 1991, because Black women didn’t know our own stories. We did not claim a clear political or social identity in terms of what had happened to us all those years in the context of racial and sexual violence.”
How Washington’s graceful portrayal shocked her:
“I loved her dignity and emotion. She appeared a lot more dignified than I felt during that moment, but she still lost nothing in terms of how painful the experience was. That is hard to convey, but she did it beautifully.”
The two also discuss Hill’s plans to go into public speaking, as well as her stance on women’s rights today. Check out the full interview here and what Harris-Perry learned from the Brandeis University professor below.
Confirmation will air on HBO April 16.
SOURCE: Essence | VIDEO CREDIT: Inform, YouTube