By Sylvia Cunningham
It wasn’t Anita Hill’s intention to start a national conversation about sexual harassment when she testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991, but that’s exactly what she did.
Professor Hill spoke to students, staff and community members at the University of Connecticut on Wednesday night and said the public discourse has been remarkable since she testified that Clarence Thomas, a nominee for the Supreme Court, sexually harassed her.
Despite her testimony and the media frenzy that ensued, Clarence Thomas became a Supreme Court justice by a narrow vote – 52 to 48 – and remains a justice today.
During her speech, Professor Hill read excerpts from letters she received over the past 23 years. She read one letter from a seventh grader who said “I’m sorry you didn’t win but life has to go on.”
Professor Hill said it was striking that at just 12 or 13 years of age, this girl had already learned to temper her expectations.
Because WHUS was not permitted to record the presentation due to a contractual restriction, we asked attendees after the part in Professor Hill’s speech that resonated most:
“I think a lot of her message was that we as leaders or as future leaders need to step up and make sure that we attack this problem at the grassroots. And that means education and awareness almost at the elementary level,” said UConn student Brendon Field.
“We need to be teaching these type of courses that look at the intersection identities and how that plays out in the lives as telling the larger narrative,” said doctoral candidate Brittney Yancy.