Thank God! Hallelujah!
What am I thanking God for?
Evolution. Growth. The ability to re-calibrate our thought-processes.
If I were to run for public office in any capacity and had to stand-up to the things I once said and believed, I’d surely go down in a heap of flames. I wouldn’t be able to stand up under the scrutiny.
As a young adult, I had very conservative views, although I never knew or understood them to be labeled as such. For example, I thought healthcare was a privilege and should be treated as a business and not a social service. I actually wrote an essay on that thesis in my undergraduate program in which I sought (and achieved) a degree in hospital administration.
Additionally, I was so pro-black and militant in my racial views that I made Malcolm X look like Clark Kent at a revival meeting. I celebrated OJ Simpson’s victory as if it were my own. Not because I believed he was truly innocent, but because I wanted a victory for blacks (in light of all of the injustices we suffered, including the Rodney King beating).
Most of all, I believed (back then) that Anita Hill had been the mouthpiece for a political agenda to block the confirmation of only the second black man to be considered for the Supreme Court of the United States — the one who would succeed Justice Thurgood Marshall (the first black justice). I didn’t care that he was nominated by a Republican president or what his political and legal views were. All I cared about was that there would be black representation in the highest court of this land and Anita Hill stood to ruin that.
Looking back on my former views during the 80s and 90s, I do so with some trepidation and extreme embarrassment. I often wonder how I could have been so narrow-minded and short-sighted, all the while believing I was right and challenged anyone who refuted my assertions.
I was a hot-head and stubbornly opinionated — dogmatic some might say. But as I grew and lived a little more life — as I stumbled and fell, as I experienced my own little hell of harassment and discrimination and injustices — I began to see the fallacies in my judgment of various issues.
Today, I watched the HBO movie, “Confirmation” that put a spotlight on the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing. Some conservatives believed this movie was a strategic move by Hillary Clinton supporters, placing women’s issues in the forefront during an election year.
But let’s face it, whether or not the movie was a strategic move, Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment existed. The hearings took place. The investigations happened. The political machine oiled its cogs and sputtered into action, squealing loudly and pointing fingers, trying to discredit and villainize the nominee’s accuser. Back in 1991, I was one of the black women who despised Anita Hill for coming forward ten years after the fact, during Clarence Thomas’s most important moment in history. Thomas was to carry Thurgood Marshall’s torch.
Life has a way of opening our eyes. I remember less than two years later (after the Thomas/Hill hearing), my husband (now my ex-husband) was accused of sexual harassment by one of his subordinates. I knew the woman who accused him. We worked together. She was a slacker. She wasn’t good at her job. Even I had to teach her things and I had only been on the job a short period of time. I also knew that she and my husband had had an intimate relationship in the past. So, when she brought charges against my husband for sexual harassment, I was certain that she was only retaliating against him for a poor performance evaluation that prevented her from receiving a promotion. I supported him. She lost her case (and later threatened suicide).
About a year after that, I learned my husband was a serial womanizer and had slept with just about every woman I worked with. One day, I sat in a room with the woman who had accused him of sexual harassment. I apologized to her for not believing her. I asked her to tell me what had happened. And as she described to me in graphic detail of the various (and numerous) incidences, I knew she was telling the truth. The things she described sounded precisely like the things my husband had, at one time or another, said and done to me.
Now, it is rare that I judge anyone who has been victimized by a co-worker or a boss. I don’t jump to hasty conclusions. I don’t pick sides without facts. I understand that, as women, we’ve had to hurdle lots of obstacles to stake our claim in this world. And we continue to do so. Add to that being a black woman, and the stakes are even higher.
So I say again thank God and hallelujah for evolution, growth, and the ability to re-calibrate our thought-processes. Anita Hill was a hero to stand up against the Washington political machine and I applaud her courage. Our younger sisters have no idea that it is because of her bravery that we have zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the work place. Don’t get me wrong, I know it still goes on, but at least we now have laws that allow us to take action and have a chance at justice and reparations.