Anita Hill discussed the impact of her testimony at the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings and the implications of the upcoming U.S. presidential election in a lecture at Richardson Auditorium Nov. 14.
Hill, a professor of social policy, law, and women’s studies at Brandeis University, called for increased public engagement to address women’s and racial minorities’ political issues.
“We need to think about how to engage with the public on important issues like sexual violence,” Hill said. “When we look at something like the [Brett] Kavanaugh hearings and see echoes of what happened 28 years before and realize that political leadership at least on that [Senate] committee has not advanced beyond 1991, what does it say about the value of our civic participation?”
Hill, who captured national attention in 1991 after testifying that Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her, spoke with African American studies professor Imani Perry about increased public scrutiny and its impact on her academic work. The two professors also discussed Hill’s 2012 book Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race and Finding Home.
“One of the things I had going for me in 1991 was an incredible family, group of friends and wonderful colleagues,” Hill said. “They keep you grounded so you can still be yourself and do the things that might be expected of you as someone who symbolizes something bigger than you are,” she told an audience of about 200 members of the Princeton community.
“The trajectory of my entire life has been shaped by that moment,” Hill said, referencing her testimony. “But it’s not as if 1991 shaped my world and nothing else — all of my experiences, including growing up in rural Oklahoma as the youngest of 13 children, have shaped my world.”
The law professor also drew a connection between the focus of Reimagining Equality and the role of civic engagement in shaping the political discourse in the upcoming presidential election.
“I want to tie the ‘home’ part of [the book’s title] to participation in our democracy because ultimately what gets the attention of public officials is your engagement with home,” Hill said. “If we can do that in this election, if the traction that we gain from the me-too movement and the Kavanaugh hearing can move us forward, it will bring out the best out of us.”