The political event that had an impact on my young adult life more than any other was the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings.
In October of 1991 I was 22-years-old and in my first month of graduate school. It was the first time I'd left the Eastern seaboard where I'd always used public transportation. Without understanding the Midwestern landscape I moved to Minnesota with no car. I had broken up with my East Coast boyfriend and I was the only Black student in my department. I couldn't afford long-distance calls and Al Gore hadn't invented the internet, so I was often glued to the television.
I watched the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings every day. Even though Anita Hill was a Republican social conservative, she was a Black woman who taught law, and that was my dream. I watched wondering, what if something horrible like this happened to me? No one believes her.
A few years later, I started teaching in a department (that I am no longer affiliated with), and I soon found out. We went on an international research trip. We were in a warm destination during January term, and my department chair asked me to go to a topless beach with him.
Similar to Anita Hill, I did not come forward. A well-meaning white colleague (like Nina Totenberg), told the Dean who insisted that I file a grievance. I was not tenured and couldn't imagine defying the Dean.
To make a long story short, an investigation was done, and I was not believed. Similar to Professor Hill, I was publicly vilified. Similar to Professor Hill, my career persevered.
I am sharing this story because a few years later I ran into my perpetrator's wife. Unlike Virginia Thomas, she never called my campus phone and she never asked me to apologize.
If Mrs. Thomas thinks that those of us who have experienced this are sorry that we spoke truth to power, well yes Virginia; there is a Santa Claus.
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