[Note: I know this movie came out in April. But when I originally planned to publish it, Prince died. *cries purple tears* So you, know, there that went. But yesterday, I read this post on VSB and one of my Facebook friends mentioned that Clarence Thomas probably puts sugar on his grits. Since he seems to be trending this week, I figured there was no time like the present to post this.]
I have no love for Clarence Thomas. He’s Uncle Ruckus with a law degree. He’s also really bad at his really important job. If the racial draft were a real thing, the black delegation would gladly trade him for Gary Owen and the white half of Amber Rose. But the thing that people over 30 really know Uncle Thomas for is the confirmation hearings spurred by Anita Hill’s allegations that Thomas sexually harassed her during the time they worked together. If you’re not familiar you can learn more about all the nasty little details here.
Last night I watched Confirmation starring Kerry Washington (a.k.a. Olivia Pope a.k.a the GOAT of keeping her personal life a secret) and Wendell Pierce (a.k.a. Bunk Moreland a.k.a. sometimes violent Hillary Clinton supporter) on HBO, which tackles that topic head on. I was only about 6 years old when the hearings went down, but I was well informed for that age. I watched the news with my family every night and flipped through the newspaper every morning. But I was a kid, so I wasn’t exactly sure what sexual harassment was or what those hearings meant as a whole. What I remember well is the way Anita Hill was portrayed in the media. By the end of the whole thing, the narrative seemed to suggest she was a liar.
I thought the movie was pretty good. Wendell Pierce breathed a little life into the lethargic sack of potatoes that is Thomas. Washington turned out to be a great choice to play Hill. Joe Biden was very convincingly played by Greg Kinnear, though he wasn’t presented in such a favorable light. It makes me wonder if this movie is the reason he chose not to run for president. But I digress.
What really stuck out to me, which I didn’t know before was that Anita Hill did not want to go public with her accusations. She was subpoenaed and had no choice. By being forced to share her story, the very thing she did not want to deal with happened anyway. She was flat-out dragged in the news. Her testimony was dismissed by a male-dominated Congress that was going to make sure their boy Clarence would be nominated by any means necessary. I hadn’t really given it much thought whether she was actually telling the truth or just a bitter ex-employee trying to take a good black man down. Maybe I should have.
I have been sexually harassed more times than I can count. What I now am able to identify as harassment, I used to view as simple male-female interaction. It’s that common, that omnipresent. For me, it was as natural as breathing air to be judged by my appearance or be minimized because of my gender. And my race. Being a black woman in America is complicated and exhausting. There’s levels to this shit.
Early in my working life, a male superior thought it was appropriate to make questionable and unprofessional comments and insinuate that I could benefit from dating an older man (him). He would tell me how terrible I was at my job, but turn around and let me know how much he appreciated me, sometimes in the same day. He threatened my job if I ever said anything to anyone. He even told me that if I had the balls to tell anyone, no one would ever believe me.
He was probably right. That, my friends, is why women stay silent when they are harassed on the job. I was just an intern, an easy target for that type of manipulation. But Anita-she was and is an accomplished woman. At the time she was a law professor. She had accomplished so much. Her character was pristine and she was respected by her peers. And she was still dismissed.
Speaking out, especially against men with influence and power, often means jeopardizing your career. I haven’t spoken up in instances where I probably should have. Like Ms. Hill, I was fearful of the consequences and fallout. However, I want you to consider this quote and I will do the same if I am faced with this situation again. Zora Neale Hurston once said, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
What I know for sure is that no job is worth the value of your soul.