I remember the Capitol Hill hearings of October 1991 like they were yesterday. Anita Hill, the black woman/law professor from Oklahoma, was my hero. "Anita" brings it all back to the forefront, and is a quiet tribute to this amazing, courageous individual.
Enduring endless hours of torturous testimony, Ms. Hill remained calm and supremely confident. I had actually forgotten that the Senate committee was comprised of 14 men, white only --- what was I thinking? These cowardly men consistently called into question the sexual harassment she suffered at the hands of Clarence Thomas, the U.S. Supreme Court nominee.
While supposedly attempting to appear non-racist, these white men repeatedly berated and mocked Ms. Hill as she detailed Thomas' graphic sexual innuendoes, overtures and plainly disgusting actions. But, through it all, Ms. Hill, looking exquisite in a sapphire blue dress, maintains her composure, and strikes a chord for every person subjected to this horrible conduct.
Written, directed and produced by Freida Mock, an Academy Award winner, "Anita" is a powerful reminder of what Ms. Hill's life became because of her bold testimony. She was both celebrated and hated, lauded by those of us who respected what she did, and threatened with death by others who despised her.
At 77 minutes, "Anita" is an insightful look at the past and present in this icon's life. Managing to retain her career, despite fierce opposition, and finding personal happiness, Ms. Hill's legacy is one of which she should be proud.
Opinion: See It Now!
For anyone under 30, the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings of October 1991 are a page in the history books. But for those of us who were riveted to our TV sets watching this young, attractive, African-American female take on the political establishment of Washington, D.C. --- indeed, she was "walking into a political lion's den", to quote one individual --- the new documentary "Anita" dramatically revisits the event, and provides insight into Ms. Hill's personal life, then and now.
Why should we care about something that happened 22 years ago? Because Ms. Hill's courage and determination set the standard for women and men in terms of appropriate behavior in the workplace. Anita's accusations about Supreme Court candidate Thomas --- he was nominated by President George H. W. Bush --- were heard by an all-white panel of 14 U.S. Senators, from both parties.
She endured comments like "Watch out for this woman", and the men on the panel repeatedly tried to put words in her mouth, particularly from the Republican contingent. But she steadfastly, and calmly, stood her ground. The Democrats, if not blatantly trying to put holes in her story, seemed, at the very least, reluctant to give her support.
After all, it was a case of her word against his, the accusatory words of a 35-year-old black woman, a previous employee in the office of the respected leader of the EEOC who was about to become a Supreme Court Justice. Yet Joe Biden, U.S. Senator from Delaware at the time, and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, did not make any attempt to bring forth other witnesses who may have corroborated Ms. Hill's case. Several witnesses did testify on Thomas' behalf, saying that Thomas was always above-board when he was their boss, and that Hill's comments could not possibly be true.
Popular opinion was split after the hearing, and Thomas was later approved for the high court by a narrow vote in the Senate. But his assertion that the panel was conducting a "high-tech lynching" will be one of the sound bites that will live in infamy.
Another aspect of this episode that should be preserved for posterity is the stunning blue dress worn by Ms. Hill that day. She remarked in the film that she has not worn it since the hearings. It deserves to be memorialized in the Smithsonian Institute as a symbol of a brave woman standing up for her principles.
Opinion: See It Now!