History has shown that certain people will forever be inextricably linked, whether through triumph or tragedy.
Almost three decades ago former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden oversaw the Senate Judicial Committee hearing of Clarence Thomas, who was later confirmed to the Supreme Court after Anita Hill’s stirring testimony which accused Thomas of sexual harassment while working as his subordinate at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Because of the hearing’s emotional toll and subsequent outcome, not to mention the blatant misogynoir and racism that she experienced once her allegations became public, Hill was forever changed.
“One of the impacts of 1991 was my desire not to really work with the government in any way,” Hill told CNN. “I always said, I think I can be more effective as an outsider, as opposed to an insider. And now, I’m willing to evolve myself, to work for change inside.”
Hill is now focused on increasing visibility for survivors of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and violence and to do that will work with a man that she once vowed she would never support—Joe Biden.
“Notwithstanding all of his limitations in the past, and the mistakes that he made in the past, notwithstanding those — at this point, between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, I think Joe Biden is the person who should be elected in November,” Hill said. But it’s not just because he’s running against Donald Trump, she adds. “Its more about the survivors of gender violence. That’s really what it’s about.”
But Hill’s position is not one of pretending that the past did not exist. While Biden has incredulously maintained that he wishes he could have done more during the hearings, even though he was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Hill is seeking to look forward in order to see survivors get the respect and security that they deserve.
“What drives me is the people who have experienced [those issues] and the people who will be experiencing them, if we don’t do something about it,” Hill said. “That is what has opened me up to do something that I probably would not have said I would do a year ago.”
The two held a conversation last year prior to Biden announcing his bid for presidency, where Biden claims that he apologized for the 1991 confirmation hearing. But there is still an obvious line of demarcation, and rightfully so. Biden publicly stated that he believed Hill during her testimony and felt he was sincere in offering an apology. Hill, on the other hand, says an apology is far from what she received.
“An apology, to be real and sincere, has to take responsibility for harm,” Hill continued. “He didn’t take responsibility. He didn’t hold himself accountable in any way, except that he was sorry that I felt I wasn’t treated fairly. He didn’t take ownership of his own role as chair of the committee.”
After the public got word of their conversation and Hill’s dismissal of Biden’s apology, he told ABC News that he needed to take “responsibility” for the hearing as the past committee chairman.
“There was a statement about ‘I take accountability; I hold myself responsible for the way the hearing was run,'” Hill said. “And so that, I think, is as close as we’ve gotten, you know, and that’s good. That’s an opening.”
As we know the remnants of Hill’s mistreatment is still evident today when Black women confess to being victims of sexual violence, partner-based violence, harassment and gender discrimination. We don’t have to look far, the examples are clear in the treatment of rapper Megan Thee Stallion after she accused singer Tory Lanez of shooting her in the foot, and the numerous women who were victimized by singer R. Kelly.
While the optics are uncomfortable, Hill is also focused on her autonomy, something that was denied to her during her testimony 30 years prior.