By Gwen McKinney
The memory is indelible: Anita Hill in a bright blue suit, facing off with poise and dignity before the all-white, all-male inquisitors. They shutdown debate in a cover-up that has lasted for 26 years.
So began the national conversation about the power dynamics and sexual misconduct in the workplace. It is a spectrum of abuse that ranges from inappropriate comments, to disrespectful and demeaning gestures, to full-on physical violation.
Anita Hill shattered the silence and brought the conversation into the public forum.
I wonder how that Senate hearing would play out today. If Hill was white would things have gone differently? What if the other accusers – Anita Hill was not alone – and corroborators were allowed to give testimony?
We’ll never know the answers. What we do know is that this is a moment that makes revisiting Clarence Thomas worthwhile. Some say, go after Donald Trump first. Why not demand that he resign?
While others dismiss this proposition as a quixotic adventure (after all, he’ll never resign, they say), silence seals the status quo. And power concedes nothing without a demand.
If members of Congress, news anchors, network executives and Hollywood superstars can be brought down under the glare of public attention, why not Clarence Thomas? What makes a person who sits on the highest court in the nation reign above the law?
If you believe Anita Hill told the truth in her sworn testimony (verified by a polygraph), then where does that leave Clarence Thomas who vehemently denied her charges? Perjury under oath before Congress is an impeachable offense.
Here’s the appeal to each civic activist who embraces justice, gender equity and the rule of law. Join us in demanding Clarence Thomas, Resign!
Like falling dominoes, the accusers of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein trained a cascading spotlight on sexual predators. But it was Anita Hill who lifted the covers 26 years ago, bringing daylight to this rampant abuse.
Anita Hill risked her reputation and personal standing to expose your vile and perverted behavior. She courageously took a stand for justice.
In return, you got a seat for a lifetime.
Today, justice is overdue for the undersigned petitioners – those who remember and a new generation then unborn. We who lived through your confirmation process believed Anita Hill then and we believe her now. We are also certain she was not alone. Where there is one target of abuse, for serial predators like you, there are many. The pattern and practice is to exact control, not because you desire, but simply because you can.
The truth about your misconduct cannot be erased. Although the all-male Senate panel shut down the debate in 1991, those voices that attempted to surface won’t be muffled in 2017. The senators who were complicit in the shameful cover-up surely owe the nation an apology.
For you, Clarence Thomas, no apology is enough. Just resign.
Public scrutiny and public accountability have no statute of limitation. Decades have lapsed but the public trust still demands action. You were given a pass that has now expired. Your indignant denials, under oath before Congress, were perjury and grounds for your removal from the bench. Resign now to save the nation the wrenching turmoil of impeachment hearings.
We also call on your victims – before and after Anita Hill – to come forward, join us and speak out. They won’t be muzzled or rebuked. You’ve enjoyed your day in court for 26 years: Now it’s time for the women who survived your perversions to have theirs.
We stand with them in the court of public opinion.
From Hollywood to Alabama, from Fox News to NPR, from the halls of Congress to the stage of comedians, widespread sexual abuse is exposing a corrupt power dynamic. But none of those men enjoy the consequential measure and impact that you wield from your perch on the U.S. Supreme Court. Your influence in shaping laws, lives and untold practices, today and in the future, is far-reaching. Your damaging misconduct on and off the bench has been unchecked. You are unfit to serve. It’s time to account.
Since 1991 justice has been delayed, but it can no longer be denied.
Clarence Thomas: Resign.
The author heads the first African American and woman-owned firm in the nation’s capital expressly dedicated to social justice communications.