Because of Anita - Episode 4

Episode 4 – The Movement

Please note: This transcript has been automatically generated.

Cindi: Hey, we’re going to be talking about sexual misconduct and violence in this series and in today’s episode. Please take care of yourself while you’re listening.

Carol Moseley Braun: Because of Anita, the whole status of women changed in this country

Jane Mayer: Because of Anita. Every young woman, can work in a workplace where she can push back when her boss harasses her. 

Barbara: Because of Anita, we all feel a little bit braver and bolder and able to speak out against both racism and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Kerry: Because of Anita, we are on a journey to exercise power with more responsibility and generosity. 

Carol Mosely Braun: I’m Carol Mosely Braun.

Jane Mayer: I’m Jane Mayer.

Barbara Ransby: I’m Barabara Ransby. 

Kerry Washington: My name is Kerry Washington.

Fatima Goss Graves: I’m Fatima Gross Graves. Because of Anita, I have extraordinary hope that we can actually do better over time. 

Salamishah: Since Anita Hill testified 30 years ago, a lot has changed . There are 143 women in congress, not 31.  The Me Too movement has exploded the silence around sexual assault. Joe Biden is in the White House, not on the Senate Judiciary committee. He even, finally, called Anita Hill to apologize. But how much progress have we really made? I’m Salamishah Tillet. 

Cindi: I’m Cindi Leive. And this is Because of Anita, our four-part series about Anita Hill, and the legacy of her testimony. In this episode we’re talking about where we are right now, and where we still need to go. About the changes we need, in the law, in the media, and in our culture. On a really fundamental level, the changes we still need in how we treat each other.  

We’ll talk to three women who have new insights about all of this. Fatima Goss Graves, the president of the National Women’s Law Center, and journalist Irin Carmon of New York magazine. 

Salamishah:  First, my friend Tarana Burke. She’s the founder of the Me Too movement, which she started back in 2006, and which went viral just over a decade later.  She’s the author of the new book “Unbound,” about her life as a survivor, and an activist. The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings in 2018 were a pivot point for Burke. A moment where her life, and her work, shifted.       

On the day Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford were slated to testify, Burke was in D.C. organizing protests in support of Dr. Ford.

Tarana: That morning in the hotel, I get a phone call very early, I’m you know, like seven o’clock in the morning or something like that I get a phone call from somebody who says they are from Dianne Feinstein’s office, Senator Feinstein’s office. And she got on the phone herself and said, I’d I’d really like for you to be there today as my guest. And I was like, you know, say no more. You know, I changed my outfit because I was going to wear some jeans and being out and out in the protest world outfit and I put on a dress and um and I got on down there.

That hearing has left such a mark on me. It was a turning point for a lot of things. It just had such a profound impact. And I think part of it relating it to Anita Hill, part of it was there had not been a figure as significant in relation to this work since Anita Hill. 

It just felt like we can’t – I don’t want to use the word squander, but that we have a responsibility in this moment. Right? That people are going to look at him being appointed as a loss for us and a win for the quote unquote them. 

And we have to, we have to take hold of that narrative so people understand that the win is happening right now. 

Salamishah: So you’ve said about those hearings that the Senate had a chance to make amends for Anita Hill, but if you don’t feel like you did anything wrong, then you don’t feel like there’s anything to make amends for. 

Tarana: I’m going to tell you, this is controversial for some people, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. 

If the Senate doesn’t feel like they owe something to Anita Hill. They don’t feel like they owe something to Christine Blasey Ford for their service, then that’s a real problem.

I sat in that room and I watched the whole thing. Her testimony and his testimony. And I watched the faces from one side of the panel all the way to the other and I don’t know that anybody on that panel really grasped the gravity of what was happening or was invested in the the repercussions of what was happening enough. 

I think obviously on the, you know, sort of Republican side, they really just didn’t care. Right? They were, they were not even looking in her face. But even from the other side, I felt like there was like the sort of political theatrics to some degree and grandstanding. And at the end of the day, this is about this woman who was harmed and how this woman who was harmed put herself on the line for her country. Right? Like she’s the ultimate patriot. If we’re talking about patriotism the way a lot of folks try to define it in this country, how much more of a patriot can you be than to open yourself up and put your life, your livelihood, your name on the line for the good of the country? 

Because she did not have to do that, right? It wasn’t like she thought at the end of the day he was going to be arrested. She could have gone the rest of her life and not said a word. And I think that the same thing with Anita Hill. Right? She could have gone the rest of her life. And that said another word and not have her name forever attached to one of the worst moments in her life. And people don’t recognize that as patriotism. 

And they quite clearly didn’t feel that way for Anita Hill. With Dr. Blasey Ford, it wasn’t much different. But it was such a pivot for me because I was like, you know what? These people can’t make amends, because they don’t know no better. Right, these are not the people who we can look to get healing or or even accountability from. This is not what they’re built for. And this is not what they’re here for. And this is not what they’re going to do.

And so this has to be about us, the will of the people, the survivors who are looking at Dr. Blasey Ford, and saying, oh, my gosh, she’s a hero. Right. It has to be about those of us who are doing this work who say, wow, this is an opportunity to really engage more people around what’s possible for us as a movement. 

Salamishah: And you did mobilize people, right? After that, but also around the hearings themselves, too?

Tarana: I will never forget the Monday before her hearings when we called for people to leave their jobs or come outside at 12 o’clock and wear black. And it rained on the East Coast um that day. And we had like a thousand people show up to the Senate building and we sang and we chanted in the Senate building. 

And then we marched from there to the Supreme Court and people stood outside. They marched in the rain. And people – it was just like old school organizing the will of the people to stand here and say, you will not do this without somebody speaking up and saying it’s not OK. 

And the thing with sexual violence and I mean specifically around  sexual violence, right. Not just women’s rights and equal pay and other issues, I mean, around sexual violence and sexual harassment, we haven’t seen that. We get kind of couched and lumped in with other issues and people kind of run off a list of things that relate to women. But this doesn’t just relate to women. It relates to all kinds of people across the gender spectrum. And we haven’t seen it being pulled out as its own issue with people putting feet to the ground and saying this is not OK. This specifically, this behavior is not OK. And we don’t have to exist in a world where we tolerate this behavior. 

Salamishah: Tarana, you told me once that you saved Dr. Ford’s nameplate, you know that name tag from the table where she testified. Do you mind sharing that story with us?

Tarana: Yeah so that was the end of the hearing and we were still kind of milling around in that room and I saw the cleaning guy come in and he was just clearing off the space before Kavanaugh came in. And I just I saw him on the other side, so I knew he was just taking and throwing them in the bag. And I walked up and I was like, excuse me, what are you going to do this? And he’s like throw it in the garbage. I was like, ‘can I have it?’ And he said, sure, you know, he didn’t care. So I just took it and I slipped it in my bag. I just needed to have it. Something about if I had of watched him throw it in the garbage, it probably would have broke my heart. I just you know, these these women, the Anita Hill or Dr. Blasey Ford, even other survivors you know, names people don’t know, just become associated with that thing. And we forget that that thing that they’re associated with is one of the worst things that ever happened to them. And so something about being celebrated, being remembered. Being thanked, being grateful, I just wanted to preserve it, so I swiped it, put it in my stuff. I don’t mind telling the story. I mean, it’s not a federal offense, right? [00:27:20][88.4]

Cindi: So you know part of what this series is about is really looking at how far we’ve come or haven’t come since 1991 in terms of honoring and taking care of – you use the really simple, powerful phrase, women who are harmed. And maybe a place to start on that is to hear a little bit more about this pivot that you experienced how did it change how you thought about sexual violence in our ability to really do something about it?

Tarana: After the hearing, I mean, it had been it was a feeling that had been creeping up for a while. But I had an encounter with a woman in the bathroom. After the testimonies, I was just like. Really out of sorts, and so I went to the bathroom to get myself together and I went into one of the big stalls and I was like, you know, I just I don’t want to cry. I was just so out of sorts. Anyway, um I came out, this woman was there, you know, and, you know, the day of the hearing, there were people there who supported Kavanaugh too and they had on their little — So I didn’t know who she I didn’t know what side she was on essentially, right? And so she said some she recognized me and, you know, she thanked me about Me Too and blah, blah, blah. And so we started this very, you know, lovely conversation um, kind of supporting one another about how hard this moment was. And then she said to me. ‘I just wish that she remembered more. If she would just,’ she was saying, like, I wish she had a better memory. I wish she could, like, fill in the blanks so people would believe her, essentially would believe her more. And, you know, I just I just wish she could just give us more something so people understood that, you know, um what happened to her and blah blah. And I was because I was feeling emotional in that moment, I said to her, I said, you know what I’m forty four years old. And I was first sexually assaulted when I was seven. And if you talk to any of my friends, my close friends will tell you Tarana has one of the worst memories around, if you tell her something, you better write it down or text us so she can, you know, follow up because she’s going to forget. 

And I said, ‘you know why? Because I spent the better part of 40 years trying to forget. I don’t want to remember.’ You know? I don’t want to carry these memories. And the fact that she could muster up what she could muster up after 35 years or however long it was, she’s a hero. We are asking her to go grave digging in her own body. And you dare say that she should remember more for you because you need to feel better about it? 

You know, it makes me angry even now, and I mean, I just emotional when I think about it now because this woman was our ally, right? This is the person who’s on our side. And I thought, if you can’t get it. If you can only see this as a political moment or, you know, a win or a loss and not understand what this woman is doing and what we’re experiencing, we have so much more work to do. The pivot for me was I need to get back to who and where I was. I don’t want to analyze the behavior of people who cause harm. I want to stand in the gap for the people who experience harm. 

Cindi:  Thank you for sharing, that’s a beautiful and kind of devastating story. Um, you know, you you talked so compellingly about attitudes changing, and you’ve also said though, that after #MeToo in 2017 that we didn’t see, you know, millionaires and billionaires opening their wallets and saying, oh, my gosh, you know, this is a terrible public health emergency that I’m going to do whatever I can to help end. 

Tarana: For sure. I mean, we still haven’t seen it, right? I think that one, it would be really helpful if people understood the breadth and depth of sexual violence more. Um. And the thing that we have to compare it to most closely is the reckoning around racial injustice over the last several years that people kind of got it. The the pockets and the purses opened because they were like, oh, we get this, there is racial inequity, and in order to rightsize that, we have to resource the groups that are working on it 

We didn’t see that around sexual violence. you know, there was sort of the low hanging fruit of sexual harassment in the workplace, which I’m not saying flippantly at all, right, because there also was not really a national mechanism to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace. So that was a wonderful thing to happen. 

But the – if you really dig into the nitty gritty of the people who said, Me Too, this happened to me too, we are talking about survivors of child sexual abuse. We’re talking about people who have survived sexual assault on college campuses. We are talking about adults who are sexually assaulted and couldn’t tell anybody. 

And if we don’t get people to understand that disrupting rape culture is at the root of ending sexual violence, and if we don’t put resources out into changing the narrative of what people understand about both sexual violence, rape culture and survival, then it is a hindrance to us really getting our work done. There’s so many people I did this work literally out of my back pocket, we find money where we can, we scrape together. You got everything from parents to boyfriends to family members, you know, chipping in. You ask your friends to donate. That shouldn’t happen when we have 12 million people respond to a hashtag in 24 hours, they’ll — the alarm that should’ve have rung in this country to say, oh, my God, how is how is it that so many people’s lives are affected by this and we aren’t doing more? 

Cindi: Why do you think we don’t see sexual violence as a public health emergency. Why is there no cancer moonshot for sexual violence?

Tarana: Yeah, I think that we have been socialized to see it as an individual, an individual issue. I think that people still don’t understand that sexual violence is violence. It’s not, you know, sex gone bad or all of those kinds of things. And because we haven’t had models that say that this is about collective responsibility, people haven’t been compelled to see it differently. So I always use the gun violence analogy to try to help people to see it differently, that the same way that we rally around if a child is shot in the street. And, you know, in our communities, we rally around that, we rally around the parents, we rally around the issue, right. And they say, we want to have safe communities. We want our children to be able to walk through the street at night and not be shot. And that’s amazing. And that’s how we see a lot of change happen. When a child is molested in a community, we don’t see it as a death, a type of death. We don’t see how that warrants all of us to come together and say, if this child is not safe, no child is safe. We don’t feel a collective responsibility for the individuals in our community. 

This is about a shift in in understanding what we owe survivors. If we are in community together and somebody is harmed in that community, we owe them something. If it is nothing more than to hold space to make sure that they have what they need to get whole again and feel reconnected to a community – particularly in Black communities and communities of color and low wealth communities, scores of us have to live and work and worship and learn and exist in the same places we were harmed, with nobody being active in trying to make those places safe.  – you know, there was all of the Black Lives Matter fervor last year, and I remember when people started coming at me saying, you know, this is not a moment to deal with Me Too. This is about Black lives. And I thought, isn’t that funny how you categorize Black lives? Right, because if Black Lives Matter then the Black lives of survivors, particularly women who have the second highest rate of sexual violence in this country, that has to matter. 

You can’t portion it off. I would say to people all the time, just say Black men’s lives matter. If that’s what you really mean. This is a messy, messy sort of thing for people to understand and unpack 

I think when you talk about racial justice, you know, you can say them and us. There’s a clear, quote unquote, enemy. In this case, that person may look like you, that person may live with you, live next to you, live in your same community and it gets more complicated for people. So we have that’s the work. But that’s the work that we’re doing. 

Cindi: Looking now at where we are in in 2021. How do you feel we’re doing? 

Tarana: I think that the way movements work is that you have people who put their heads down and grind and grind and grind and grind and grind. And then you have a moment that brings it all together and advances us a little further than we would have advanced on our own. 

I think that’s what happened around Anita Hill. Right? And I think we’re seeing the same thing. Folks in the movement are doing a good job of painting the picture of what survival looks like. And that helps people to understand exactly the the job ahead of us. 

Salamishah: I fully agree with Tarana’s sense of optimism. But also we’re in the middle of this global COVID-19 pandemic and we’ve seen how different communities and different countries have marshaled their resources to try to end it. And gender-based violence is a global pandemic. So why is it so hard for us to marshal our resources? If every one in three women is a victim of gender based violence. Why haven’t we treated this with the courage, the compassion and urgency that this epidemic requires? 

Cindi: Yeah. Like thinking about it as something that deserves its own public response is really crystallizing because I think, you know, as she says, we still tend to think about sexual violence as a private issue like, that’s a terrible thing that happened between those two people. But as a society, really, what can we do? We kind of throw up our hands. You know, if you think about it as a public issue that we as a society have an obligation to take on, like if we’re going to fix that one in three statistic, then we need to be bringing all of our tools to bear. And one of those tools is journalism. After the break, what it’s really like to report on cases of sexual abuse – and what still makes it hard. 

Cindi: If you’re talking about changing the world we live in, you need to talk about journalism. Most cases of harassment and assault, of course, never show up in the media. But those that do can have an outsized impact. Shining a light on something doesn’t automatically fix it, but it often starts the process. On one level, we’ve come a long way in terms of reporting on harassment since 1991, when only a tiny handful of journalists, most of them women, really dug into the allegations against Clarence Thomas. In 2017, we saw the hashtag MeToo movement go viral after reporting at both the New York Times and The New Yorker exposed allegations against Harvey Weinstein. But that was four years ago. 

Irin Carmon: As these stories have piled up, I actually think that some editors have become more skeptical of them. And I think that there is now fatigue. There is Me Too fatigue at journalistic organizations. 

Cindi: Irin Carmon knows a lot about covering sexual harassment and violence. She reported for the Washington Post in 2017 and 2018, and is currently a senior correspondent at New York Magazine

Irin Carmon: Now, a big story like the governor of New York can shake people loose. But I think there’s also been enough time for the kind of backlash and skepticism that anybody who’s been following this for a long time would have expected to come a lot earlier. That that’s now kind of back with full force.

Cindi: At the Post, Carmon and her colleague Amy Brittain broke two stories about the celebrated newscaster Charlie Rose, ultimately documenting allegations from thirty five women who said Rose had harassed them at work over three decades. He denies the allegations. The charges were vivid: that Rose walked around naked in front of them. Groped them. Asked young news clerks about their sex lives.

Irin: So after we published the story of Charlie Rose, he was fired. And the word from the editors that we were working with was that we should follow up, find out who knew what. Find out if there were more.

Cindi: That follow-up reporting led them to Jeff Fager, who ran 60 Minutes, and was Charlie Rose’s boss there. 

Irin: We started hearing that his greatest champion at the network, who was at at one time the chairman of all of CBS News and was this kind of legendary executive producer of 60 Minutes, not only had known about Charlie Rose’s conduct but also had been accused of sexually harassing women and of creating an environment in which harassment was tolerated, a boys club, in which also older women were marginalized and pushed out. I mean, one of the allegations was that he had come up to a uh CBS employee at a party and said, ‘grab my dick, I’m hung like a horse.’ 

Cindi: Fager denies the allegations. 

Irin: But to make a five month long story short, ultimately, despite having documents, multiple sources, but none of those sources would put their name on it, at the very last minute, the Post’s legendary editor, Marty Baron, just felt like he could not stand behind the story. This story that we had spent months of our lives reporting and we spoke to, I think hundreds of people by the end of it was just deemed not publishable.

Cindi: What was it like to have to call some of the women who had shared their stories over what you’ve just described as a period of many months and tell them that this story was not going to run?

Irin: Well, what was heartbreaking to me was that it had taken us so long to get these women to open up to us, and we had told them all along that they could trust us, which we strove to make true every time we dealt with them and beyond. But we also told them when they said to us, ‘this man is too powerful, your story will never run.’ We said, ‘that’s not how things work at The Washington Post.’ And to be made a liar on something that, you know, these individuals had trusted us on, it gutted me. I mean, it was it was the hardest experience that I have ever had in journalism. We were made into liars and all you have is your integrity. 

To me, one of the failures of the editors at The Washington Post on this particular story was to not see a sexual harassment or assault story the same way that they saw other whistleblower stories. So, in fact, it is routine for there to be anonymous sources. At the time, every day you opened up The Washington Post and you would read an anonymous story out of the White House. So it seemed to me that sexual harassment and assault stories were being held to a completely different standard.

Salamishah: Why are those standards especially high for cases of sexual harassment?

Irin: You know, the philosopher Kate Manne talks about himpathy, the kind of disproportionate empathy that we have for for men in society, and in particular, I think she’s talking about it in the context of men who are accused. So I think powerful men are routinely extended him-pathy. They also have all the tools to fight back. They have tools to raise the price for even a well-meaning journalistic organization to just say, is this worth it? 

Cindi: mmm

Salamishah: Both as an activist and as a sexual assault survivor myself, I’ve always been struck by this empathy that you’re talking about and also identification with the people who are accused of harassment or assault and not necessarily with the victims, why do you think that identification is so easily transferred to those not just in power, but those who are being accused.

Irin: Well, the simplest answer is misogyny, but I think the more complex reason, too, is that the standards by which we evaluate credibility tend to reward winners. So if we are evaluating, why should I trust this person over another, if it’s an incident in which only two people were present, for example, Then we’re using an inherently biased system to say who is more credible, because the catch-22 here is that if a survivor was irreparably harmed by what happened to them and they went on to miss work, quit. Well, how easy is it then to say, oh, well, she’s just disgruntled, she’s just unhappy that things didn’t work out for her here. 

Salamishah: Also, I just want to say, though, how remarkable the reporting was at the dawn of Me Too. There was a radical shift in how uh survivor stories were being heard and reported, despite the fact that you were having all these battles in the newsroom yourselves. 

Irin: Traditionally journalistic organizations compete against each other. And that was certainly true in the fall of 2017. But there was also this feeling that everybody was kind of helping build on each other’s work. And one person’s work actually could help empower a source to come forward. So there was this real cumulative effect, both among the sources and the reporters. And I think it probably made editors a little braver than they are usually. There was this moment of like things will be different this time. But as 2018 kind of wore on, I think there were more reality checks, which is just that these are deeply entrenched attitudes. These are institutions that are really hostile to change. These are people who are, you know, at the top of their field in many cases. And it’s really difficult to unshake all of those things at once.

Cindi: What gives you hope that journalism and the media can do better and really perform their role and responsibility as a tool to expose and eradicate these cases? 

Irin: I think what makes me optimistic is that even though the most durable legacy journalism institutions are doing incredible work. They are not the only game in town anymore. And a lot of individuals have a lot of different ways to express what they’re thinking. You can’t put that genie back in the bottle. The pushback, the criticism, individuals telling their story on their own terms, all of those things I think couldn’t have existed in 1991. And I do think that the way that Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations were covered reflected a lot more of that nuance than the horrific way that Anita Hill was treated. Now, did it matter in the end? No, because, again, power does not want to give up its grip here. But from the point of view of how the media handled it, I do think there was more nuance. There were many more voices. And I think there were still a lot of people who were really brave, who were willing to tell these stories, even though they had a lot to lose. So that, that feels like there’s no going back on that.

Salamishah: The outpouring of voices, on social media, in magazines and newspapers, speaking out about harassment and assault – that’s not going to stop. But we want to live in a world in which harassment and assault don’t happen, period. 

Cindi: And to get there, we need more than personal stories. We need the law. One law you might have heard of is the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. It was passed shortly after Anita Hill testified. It included stronger protections against domestic violence, stalking,  and it made it easier for survivors to access services. VAWA, as it’s called, also included  a provision that allowed sexual assault survivors to sue their attackers in civil court. But in 2000, the Supreme Court struck down that provision of VAWA, in a case called US. v. Morrison. That case comes up a lot, when you talk to legal experts – losing the right to file civil suits was a big blow. 

Fatima: Morrisson both took away that important tool, but it also that language around gender based violence and our understandings of what it means to be equal in this country – that was another separate and huge blow. 

Salamishah: That’s Fatima Goss Graves. She’s the president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, and she spends a lot of time thinking about how the courts treat women, and survivors.  She says some pieces of the law governing harassment have changed for the better,  since 1991. A little better.

Fatima Goss Graves: So we think the law should do a few things. It should ensure every worker is covered. You actually aren’t protected under our civil rights laws. there is not a legal remedy for everyone. You have to cover everyone. There’s a range of tools that employers have been using again and again to actually drive harassment more deeply in the shadows. They use things like arbitration or they make you sign these broad nondisclosure agreements before you even know what’s going to happen to you. You know, you sign a bunch of paperwork on your first day. Sometimes that paperwork is and you will never discuss anything that has ever happened to you. Well, you don’t know what’s going to happen to you. All of that is designed to keep it in the shadows, in the dark. And what we’ve learned from Me Too is we actually need it to be in the light. 

Salamishah: And so can you talk a little bit more about the Be Heard act, which I know you backed the last Congress. 

Fatima Goss Graves: It is a law that ensures all workers would be covered. It is a law that takes on some of these tools that keep harassment in the shadows. It changes the standard of what is harassment and makes it easier to prove. It also extends the amount of time people have to file complaints of harassment. Right now, it’s a really short amount of time. So you have to kind of know right away that it’s a thing you’re going to do. And very few people, is it that their experience, you know, people um may think about it. They might want to take some time. And unfortunately, depending on what state you live in, you have six months to less than a year.

Salamishah: 30 years after the year of the woman. Congress remains three quarters white and three quarters male. So do you think that demographic or the lack of diversity inhibits us from doing the work that we need to be doing around gender based violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault? [00:34:07][65.8]

Fatima Goss Graves: The idea that it doesn’t matter that we have this mostly white and mostly male legislative bodies. It does. But the other thing that we know about every type of institution is that when you change who is in the room, you change what’s on the table. So when now-VP Harris came to the Senate, she was bringing an ability to name a lot of issues that Black women were naming as giant concerns. 

The other thing is in the House in 2018, the second time you had a Year of the Women, it was a far more diverse group of women coming in. So you had the first year of the women in 1992. It was not as diverse as this one where you had historic firsts. The first Indigenous women elected, the first Latinas from states like Texas, the first Black women from New England. People were bringing very different perspectives to the conversation. I will say those women, both in 1992 and unfortunately now, they also take extraordinary heat. They are subject to a certain special vitriol that I cannot imagine. The threats against their lives for just doing their job. So I also think about what it means to be breaking the norms of how these institutions work. It makes a difference.

Salamishah: I’m gonna shift gears a little bit and I want to read a passage from Anita Hill’s new book, “Believing,” and she writes that “in 2020, a hundred years after the passage of the 19th Amendment, gender based violence persists and neither political party has a plan in place to end it.” What do you think political parties should be doing here in the United States?

Fatima Goss Graves: So I think political parties in this country were given the gift of Me Too, they were given the gift of people being willing to share their experiences to fight for change. You don’t often get that. And neither political party has put it at the top of their agenda. If you say what are the top three things you’re going to accomplish this year? Addressing gender based violence, addressing sexual violence, it’s not on their top three, so it is our task to put it on their agenda. It is our task to help them recognize that it is a gift from that movement to drive that sort of change and not in ways that are just symbolic. In ways that actually change people’s lives.

Salamishah: And then what do you think is possible in the long term?

Fatima Goss Graves: I actually think we are going to continue to see changes in our laws. I think we will see that at a state and local level. You know you often have like a domino effect if you have a handful of states move forward, all of a sudden states want to be in competition with each other. It is my great hope we will see every worker covered. I also think we are going to continue forward cultural movement. And it won’t always feel like that. Some days it’ll feel like we are just steeped in backlash, and not moving forward. But we are moving forward. And it is my deep, deep hope that when we look back in a decade from now, the types of things that were in dispute in 2021 will feel absurd.

Cindi: This is our last episode of this series. And over the months we’ve been reporting, there’s one thing that we’ve asked everybody, and that’s to complete the phrase: “Because of Anita.” Because of Anita, what happened? In your life, or in the world. We heard some of those answers earlier in the episode, and I wanted to ask you Salamishah: how would you complete that thought? Because of Anita, what?

Salamishah: You know, I saw the Anita Hill testimony when I was 16 years old, and now I’m 46 years old and I’ve grown up in this movement to end gender based violence because of my own experiences and because of what we all witnessed as a country. So I have been able to see firsthand how we have responded differently to survivors coming forward with their allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment. We believe survivors more. There are more resources, and yet I’m still concerned that that isn’t enough, that we’re not always getting at the root. But I never thought I’d see a day when so many millions of people would testify, so to speak, online with their own stories of harassment or sexual assault. And I’d never thought I’d see the day when it wouldn’t be as hard to make the case that these issues matter. So I am grateful to Anita Hill to give us the space and the forum to continue that tradition.

Cindi: Mmm. You know, if stigma and shame around survival has gone away, if it’s a little bit less for a young person now than it might have been 30 years ago. That’s a great thing. That’s a wonderful thing. If we understand better that there’s no behavior that makes somebody a more or less legitimate survivor and that all those things that Anita Hill was raked over the coals for, keeping in touch with the person who had harassed her, etc.. That is all great. What would be even better is if people, women and men, were less likely to be assaulted to begin with. I mean, I thought of this so much when Professor Hill and Dr. Ford were talking in their conversation about what they hoped the next person who came forward would face and how she or he would be treated. And I agree with all those things. And I also think that ultimately we want there to be fewer people who need to come forward. Understanding that this is something that has been part of our culture and all cultures for millennia and that it’s complex. I still think that’s the goal. That’s the goal. 

Tarana: Because of Anita, I know what courage looks like. And tenacity. And resilience. 

Kerry: Because of Anita, I am continuously inspired to walk with grace in my life.

Drew: Because of Anita, I had the vocabulary and the framework to even understand the nature of the harm that was being done to me and because of Anita, I had faith that if I told the truth, it would work out however, it was intended to work out 

Christine: If Anita had never testified it would not have occurred to me that that was even something that a person should do. When the time came, I was certain that I was going to say something. And I’m absolutely sure that i would do it again.

Cindi: That’s Tarana Burke, Kerry Washington, Drew Dixon, and Christine Blasey Ford. 

Salamishah: I’m Salamishah Tillet. 

Cindi: And I’m Cindi Leive. Because of Anita is a production of Pineapple Street Studios and The Meteor.

Salamishah: Our senior producer is Kat Aaron and our managing producer is Agerenesh Ashagre.

Cindi: This show was also produced by Justine Daum. Our associate producers are Janelle Anderson, and Xandra Ellin. Our editor is Leila Day. Our project lead for The Meteor is Rebecca Halperin. Fact-checking by Ivette Manners. 

Salamishah: Our engineers are Davy Sumner, Raj Makhija, and Hannis Brown. Special thanks to Joel Lovell and Maddy Sprung-Keyser at Pineapple Street and Kara Kearns of The Meteor. This episode features original composition by Davy Sumner, Raj Makhija, and Hannis Brown. Additional music from Blue Dot Sessions.

Cindi: Our show art is by Pentagram and our additional art is by Pixelittle. Our executive producers at The Meteor are us, Salamishah Tillet and Cindi Leive.  Our executive producers at Pineapple Street are Max Linsky and Jenna Weiss-Berman. Thank you to Tarana Burke, Irin Carmon, and Fatima Goss Graves for joining us for this episode. 


Because of Anita - Episode 3

Episode 3 – The Conversation

Please note: This transcript has been automatically generated.

Cindi: Hey, we’re going to be talking about sexual misconduct and violence in this series and in today’s episode. Please take care of yourself while you’re listening.

Salamishah: Cindi, do you have, like water and stuff? What’s your situation over there with the-the liquids? [00:22:17][3.4]

Cindi: I’ve got straight vodka, Salamishah. [Salamishah laughs] No, I have water 

Cindi: We’re sitting in a studio. Our first guest has just logged on.

Salamishah: Christine, do you have things around you?

Christine: I have a tea but yeah. 

Salamishah: That’s Christine, as in Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

Christine: I’m so nervous right now. [laughs]

Salamishah: What kind of tea do you have? 

Christine: Not one that makes me not nervous [both laugh]. Like, Lipton generic tea, yeah.

Cindi: Dr. Ford is understandably nervous. She’s kept a low profile since 2018. That’s when she appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in high school, allegations he denies. That testimony changed everything for her. She got threats so serious and personal her family had to relocate several times. Her entire world shifted, and she’s still adjusting. Right now, she’s focused on her students at Palo Alto University and The Stanford University School of Medicine. But she’s been looking forward to this conversation with Anita Hill, maybe the one person in the world who understands what she’s been through.

Anita: So before we roll, I’m going to close the window now. [closing window sound] Hope that I don’t overheat [laughter]

Cindi: [laughs]

Salamishah: Our second guest, Anita Hill, joins the recording.

She’s a professor at Brandeis University, where she’s taught for more than two decades now. She’s also written a new book, called “Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence.” So it’s been a busy time. 

Christine: Hi! 

Anita: Oh, hi. How are you? 

Christine: I’m OK, how are you?

Anita: I’m fine. Fine. Christine, have you had vacation? 

Christine: I have.

Anita: Oh, good.

Christine: Yeah.

Cindi: Dr. Ford and Professor Hill have met before, but this is their first public conversation. 

I’m Cindi Leive.

Salamishah: And I’m Salamishah Tillet. And this is Because of Anita, a four part series about Anita Hill and the legacy of her testimony. 

Cindi: You’ll hear us jump in once in a while, but this is mostly a discussion between the two of them.  Neither Anita Hill nor Christine Blasey Ford particularly wanted to testify. But both of them did. And today, we are privileged to present this conversation, about their anger, their grief, their hope, and where we go from here. 

Salamishah: Dr. Ford started by telling us about the first time she met Professor Hill. That was in 2019, the year after Dr. Ford’s testimony. 

Christine:  We met at an event I had the honor of introducing her. And I was so excited to meet her. And had been wanting to meet her since the year prior, but I was busy practicing the introduction and making sure not to mispronounce, I think, the name of the county you were from. And so I wasted a lot of time just stressing out about making sure I was going to pronounce things correctly. And I wish I had just sat and talked to you a little bit more and– 

Anita: I mean, it was a great introduction. And I always worry about introductions because then you have to go up and you have to live up to them. [Christine laughs] And I thought, oh, my goodness, I’m never going to be able to live up to Christine’s introduction. It was just so kind and generous. Yeah, and I did wish that we had had more time together. It was hard to spend time because there were, just like as I recall, so many people in the room. 

Christine: We didn’t have a lot of privacy, but I still I treasured the few moments that I did have to ask you some questions about how long it takes to get past this event and how long did it take you to sort of recover and get back to work and get back to your day to day life after your own experience. But the other thing I remember was also how well you were received. It felt like Beatlemania when you walked on the stage [Anita laughs], how excited the audience was to see you was unforgettable.

Anita: You pumped them up, though. [laughs] They didn’t dare not be receptive after that introduction. You know, it is true, though, that that conversation was really important. And one instinct that I have I think is, I have this very protective instinct. and when we met, one of my concerns was that, that you are going to be OK and talking to you and I could tell that were still so many things going on. But I did leave feeling assured that you were going to be able to handle what was going on in your life and that, you know, you had this strong core that would get you through it. So I left feeling better and less concerned than what I imagined in my mind was happening. 

Christine: Yes, I remember you saying that I would have a much better perspective in five years and in twenty five years, so. And you were right. [laughter] 

Anita: [laughs] well, good, good. It’s I like being right sometimes. Especially about that. [laughter] 

Cindi: It was July of 2018 when Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court, to fill the spot left by Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement. Over that summer, Dr. Ford grappled with whether to share what she knew about the nominee, and how. As she weighed her choices, she thought back to 1991, and Anita Hill’s testimony.  There were a few details that stood out. 

Christine: I was in graduate school at the time and living in Los Angeles and several things uh, one was Anita’s professionalism and your composure and your precision, I was really struck by your precision and just thought that was incredible and so inspiring. And the ability to speak about something so personal in such a public forum is something that I just was in awe of. And I just couldn’t understand how you could get through that and just have so much respect for the fact that you could sit in that big room and that big room is big in space and it’s also big in meaning um for our country. It’s a very important place. And so just seeing you and the footage of you speaking there – so powerful, it’s not something that I’ll ever forget. And then thinking about my summer of 2018 when I was wondering what I was going to do.  I remember thinking that that’s just not something I could ever do, that I couldn’t be in that big room sitting with that group and that that wasn’t something that I was going to be able to do. And lo and behold…

Anita: you did.

Christine: I ended up there – I ended up in the smaller room. But, [laughs] 

Anita: But it was big. [laughs] 

Christine: yeah it was still big –.

Anita: It was. And it wasn’t just the room. I mean, that’s why it was so big, because it was really the world. I mean, it felt like you could have been down the street it just did not feel far away it really just grabbed all of us and pulled us in in a way that it was kind of a spiritual solidarity that is hard to articulate, there were people, of course, texting me through the day. And the thing that I think about when I think about your testimony was how generous you were, how you were so going out of your way to help us all understand what you had experienced and why it was important. And I guess with me it was sort of 27 years later, that was me sort of wanting to grab certain folks on the stage by the shoulders [laughs] and say, you know, ‘why d-did why can’t you get this? Why aren’t you getting this?’ What you did was just so amazing. 

Christine: Thank you for saying that. It was an incredibly stressful experience, as you know, just the walking into the room and the sitting in that chair. And one of the ways I coped with it was just to say I’m just going to be, you know, the best human being I can be and assume that everyone else in the room is also here to do the same and to try their best at sharing the data that I had and, assuming that that was data that they would want to receive. And that was my coping mechanism for just getting through the experience, I didn’t want to think about what other people’s agendas might be or any of the political pieces of it. I just wanted to be a person and do my best at sharing the data that I had and ask that they consider that data when they made their decision.

Anita: Mm. That sounds just so generous [laughs], maybe more generous than I was [laughs]. You know it it But I did in a similar way, say to myself before I testified that my job really is to be as open and as clear as possible. It’s not to persuade. Their job is to be persuaded. And so, the way I evaluated my experience and my contribution was whether or not I was clear about what happened to me, not based on what conclusions they reached from hearing what I experienced. 

Christine: Yes, I very much relate to that. The stress of the situation is such that I really had to let go of what the outcome was going to be really early on in the process, because I just could not get caught up in whatever the outcome was going to be. So like you, I just wanted to make sure that I was clear and do the best job that I could do in explaining the information that I had about the then-nominee.

Anita: And one point that you made, I think people overlook a lot, was that there was a whole summer experience of uncertainty that I think people don’t take into account very much. They think, OK, she was called to testify, she testified then she left. [Christine laughs “right”] And they see it as like that day and that experience. And there is, you know, the lead up to it, the follow up afterwards that people really aren’t quite aware of, I think. And all of that time is stressful.

Christine: Yes! That whole summer was 24/7 stressful and trying to figure out what I was supposed to do, and how could I communicate the information, and who was the best person to go to, and just really not knowing what to do. And you’re right, people think that my name was in the paper and then I testified and then it was over. But for me it was a three month lead up to that day. Where I just didn’t really know what to do. That’s really important, because for other people who are in the same situation, and we know there’s probably many, many other people in that situation, that they don’t know what to do. And I was a person of reasonable intelligence and still could not figure out what it was that I was supposed to do or who I was supposed to call or who I was supposed to contact and what the best route was. 

Anita: You know, I I think one of the conversations that we’ve had makes me think that there was a before, there was a during, and there was an after. And I really liked your sense of what their responsibility was at each of those phases – that that the committee had a responsibility all throughout. And, you know, of course, I don’t think they lived up to their responsibility in either case. But I think that willingness to collapse the experience to that one day allows people to not take responsibility for the whole of the system that they’ve put in place or haven’t put in place for dealing with this. 

What should be happening before that testimony happens? What should be happening during the hearing and then what should be happening after – and that certainly after is something that people don’t think about, that witnesses just sort of get dropped off [Christine laughs] and and [laughter], you know, they say goodbye to you and it’s like, now go live your normal life, uh which is impossible. 

Christine: Yes, I think that the before, during, after paradigm is really useful for organizing the experience. During the before period, especially in a government situation, there’s no H.R. department, so there’s no specific office or person who you can contact. And I was wishing that that was the case. Uh, certainly I had a friend or two suggesting that I get an attorney. That was hard for me to understand. I didn’t understand why I needed an attorney. I felt like I hadn’t done anything wrong. And also, I just want to point out that, you know, hiring an attorney requires resources and not all survivors have those resources. Ultimately, I decided I was going to use the civic pathway and go through my local US representative uh and then after that, I ended up with attorneys eventually. But that was a long process and very, very stressful. Then the after process, you’re right, they do sort of just say ‘Bye, thank you so much’ and if there’s ever anything I can do for you, let me know kind of thing and very, very polite. And – the hearing itself, maybe in part because of what happened during your hearing, I think what people saw on TV was generally people being very polite to me. So that was not the worst part of it by far. But the afterward, when you are experiencing the retaliation and the smearing and the-the ongoing media, you feel like you are being investigated and that you are being evaluated for the Supreme Court. That was just so unnecessary and damaging to my family.

Cindi: You know, I think when I hear both of you talk about your experiences, there is a sense that this is something that you were doing as citizens and you know that it was about doing your duty as opposed to worrying about what the outcome would be. And I-I wondered how much of coming forward was a sort of act of citizenship for each of you. 

Christine: For me, it was in a way, a calling. Um I don’t know how to phrase it, but a calling from the country or from my civic duty as a citizen that I had to say something. I didn’t know to whom I needed to say the information to, I didn’t know if it was the media, I didn’t know if it was the White House, I didn’t know who exactly, uh, and how I was supposed to share the information, but I knew that I was going to share it in some way. But when I reflect back on that, I realized that I would never have thought in my mind that I needed to say something if it wasn’t for Anita, because if Anita had never testified and we had never seen her do that, it would not have occurred to me that that was even something we were supposed to do or that a person should do. I hear from people all the time say I could never do what you did. And I say I-I could never do it either. [laughs] But when it does happen to you, it’s harder to sit with that information and not share it than it is to share it. But that said, I-if if it wasn’t for Anita, it just wouldn’t have occurred to me. I would have thought, ‘oh, there goes just another person climbing the ladder who did a really bad thing’ and I just wouldn’t have known that it was something that I should have said. Yet when the time came, I was certain that I was going to say something. So without Anita, I wouldn’t be with you today, with any of you, I just wouldn’t be here. 

Anita: Oh, thank you. 

Christine: It’s true. If you think about it, we wouldn’t know that it’s our civic duty until we see some other citizen actually participate. So that gives me hope that my life is only so long, but there-there’s-when there is someone else in this position and there will be, that, maybe they will also see that it is their civic duty to speak up. 

Anita: Uh, thank you. I think, you know, you can rest assured that you are going to be, continue to be, an example to people of what they can do and what they should do in circumstances like these.  And I-I too hear from people who say, ‘oh, I could never have done it’ and-and I do think that they underestimate themselves. It’s just when you have something and you feel that it’s important, that it’s critical, actually, then you can stand up in a different way than when you’re thinking about it in the abstract. 

For me, the whole idea of patriotism and why I felt it was my responsibility and duty came not just as a citizen, but also as a member of the Bar. I had felt in my life how important the Supreme Court’s decisions are. I had seen it lived out in my family’s life. I had 12 older siblings and 3 of us graduated from integrated high schools. The others graduated from segregated high schools. So I knew firsthand the importance of a decision like Brown vs. Board of Education and the importance of the Court having integrity, and the integrity of the Court was only as good as the integrity of the members of the Court. But, you know, it it also – my civic responsibility came in part not just as a member of a Bar, but as a teacher to students who were going to be members and in teaching, I not only tried to teach them the law, but I also tried to teach them their responsibility to the law. 

So for me, it was very complicated, it was very personal, um, but it was also about my profession. And I don’t think people understood that, I think – I don’t know if you get this or not, Christine, but I still think people believe that people who come forward like you and I did have some kind of personal vendetta against a party or an individual. And it-it wasn’t that at all, for me. And I think one of the most damaging things that we cast on to people who do come forward is this idea that they’re doing it for some individual personal gain when in fact, we know that the risks are so high for them personally.

Christine: Right. In the correspondence that I’ve received, and I’ve received mail from all 50 states and 31 countries and counting, at this point, and hearing from survivors talk about reasons that they didn’t report, reasons that they didn’t come forward. And it’s a fear of – often a fear of retaliation and we know that that is a valid fear.

Anita: Oh, absolutely. You know, of all the information that’s being collected about why people don’t speak up, what the dynamics of coming forward are, the fear of retaliation is high and it’s well placed. I mean, roughly 60 percent of the people who do come forward face some form of retaliation. People do the right thing and they end up suffering.

Salamishah: what do you think it would take to believe survivors, believe women, when they come forward with their experiences?

Anita: I think they do believe. I think they’re afraid of believing so they may even say they don’t believe. But I-I think somewhere inside they do believe, but they’re just not willing to do anything about it. They don’t want to take the responsibility, especially if you’re talking about someone who is really powerful, who is being accused. They don’t want to take responsibility for fixing the problem. So even when somebody says, well, I just don’t believe it’s true, I’m not sure that I believe them. Because if you ask them, well, if it were true, what would you do about it? They typically don’t have a response. 

Christine: I was struck when Anita said that you think that people do believe and it just reminded me of of sitting in that room, in that chair and seeing on people’s faces and thinking that they did believe me, and just if I had to bet, I think most of them did. That day, I did feel that the people in the room did believe me.

Salamishah: So, Anita, at the time, in November 1991, 1600 Black women took out an ad in The New York Times in defense of you, in defense of themselves and in support of you. And you talk about in your book how their expression of that really expressed an-an outrage that perhaps you at the time couldn’t express yourself, especially couldn’t express when you were giving your testimony.   

Anita: You know, it meant a lot um I have the poster in my office. It was the outrage, but it was also the sense of not being alone that I felt. There was so much effort, I think, to-to divide me from African Americans to create the idea that Thomas was representing the race and that I was doing something that, you know, was against Black people. And to have that articulation of support and just the explanation of the experiences of African-American women was something that was just… I’ll use the term soul saving because it helped restore me back to where I always felt that I was: a member of a community of Black people. 

But one of the things that, uh, you haven’t mentioned is the fact that in Christine’s situation, there was a similar poster that was modeled after um African-American Women In Defense of Ourselves, but it was done by men. And when I saw that poster, one of the things that it said to me was things have changed. That when a bunch of men are using African-American women as their model for how to respond to these situations, you know, there’s been change. And I don’t know, I I I’ve never asked you, Christine, how you felt about that. You probably were so caught up in the experience of the moment. But um do you have any thoughts about that poster that was there? What did it do for you?

Christine: So at the time, I was pretty inundated.  So I didn’t see a lot of things that most people saw, including that beautiful piece. However, afterward what was great was I did come to learn about it and then was able to meet the people who were responsible for creating that. And-and that was a joy. And having all of that support from the community definitely makes a huge difference and makes us feel less alone. It really helps when you have an army of people that are-are coming out to support you. 

Cindi: I want to move to something else. We’ve talked about this in an earlier episode of this series, but Anita, as we know, there were witnesses who would have been ready to corroborate your testimony in the hearing room.  Joe Biden eventually apologized to you for what you went through at the hearings, but as you note in your book this was an apology to you personally, not for the toll taken on the country. So what were the consequences of the hearings, for you personally but also for all Americans?

Anita: I’ll say that it reemerged in 2018, that anger and disappointment. In 2018, the consequences were evident again, uh as they had been for me in 1991, where people were saying to me, you know, I, I no longer have any confidence in our courts or our systems. I have no confidence in my representative that they understand my experience. So in one proceeding, they were able to diminish the confidence that people have in two of our government bodies, the courts and the Senate. And it’s real. People feel as though – and it’s mostly women, but some men as well as people who don’t identify as either – felt as though they were not being represented. And what that means is that people lose confidence in the decisions that are made and policies that are put in place. But there are also consequences in terms of, OK, what’s next? Christine was brave to come forward with nineteen ninety one in the background. But have people actually given up on the idea that the government will step up and respond appropriately with a process that is transparent so that you can prepare. 

And then finally, are there going to be protections afterwards against retaliation? I mean my job was threatened. My life was threatened. And seemingly, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the members took no responsibility for responding to that. And as Christine has pointed out, it will happen again, it will happen again that someone is going to come forward and so what does that say to people who are likely to be victimized?  

Cindi: As Professor Hill says, one thing that would help, is a transparent government process. A process that takes investigation seriously – more than it did in 1991, or 2018.

This summer, the FBI disclosed that back in 2018 it had received more than 4,500 tips about then-nominee Kavanaugh, but had only interviewed ten people, after the allegations against him emerged. 

Christine: When it was announced that there would be a one-week investigation after the hearing, we assumed that the FBI was coming to interview me and I was prepared and really looking forward to speaking with them and as were many of my corroborators. And we just held out hope that they were going to show up at some point and finally we were told that they were likely not coming. So that was, you know, profoundly disappointing and just still difficult to believe that that didn’t happen. And therefore, I’ve never been able to share a lot of that information. And I think that’s another thing that I look back on with the hearing. I didn’t completely understand that that was the one and only time that I would be speaking up and that that was my one chance. I think it’s because I’m a scientist. I assumed people would follow up and want to clarify things with me and that I would be available to them to provide additional information. And that’s just not the way that the process operates. So I’m hopeful that the next time this happens that people are more aware of of what this looks like.

Salamishah: Professor Hill and Dr. Ford are both fairly private people.

But they’re also two of the most visible survivors of sexual harassment and assault in American history. And as such, people often have lots questions for them.   

Christine: Do you have questions that many people ask you? Because I have people, sort of, ask me the same questions often. 

Anita: Questions that I get are really pleas for help, like how do we come forward or how do we make change in our own workplaces or our own communities or, you know, I’ve had people come to me where they’re having an experience in their church or synagogue. They want to know how to deal with it. One of the most compelling questions I had were two women who were obviously in the military. And they wanted to know how they could get movement to bring in more support for what was happening and more attention to what was happening in the military with sexual assault. I had some Native American women talk about uh the experiences of Native American women and sexual assault and other kinds of violence against them. They didn’t have a platform or no one was listening to them. Nobody cared about their experiences. So I get a range of questions, um, and you know some at times I just feel completely inadequate to-to answer them. But I always at least try to understand what people are feeling.

Christine: I’ve had similar questions where people are wanting to know now you know what do we do now? and I feel not equipped to, necessarily solve the problem, but, um, trying to learn and lead research projects that are aimed at understanding survivors and understanding the impact of sexual assault on survivors and how they process their experiences.

Anita: I I do want to ask a question about what you just mentioned – the work that you’re doing about how victims remember and recall their experiences, because I just felt so good about the manner in which you delivered your testimony. It was like, oh, here’s another teacher and she’s teaching [laughs] um the panel and the rest of us. You know, you had something that was very informed by who you are in your work a-about how you remember your own assault.

Christine: Yes. So in my testimony, I I made references to, sort of, neuroscience based models of memory — and was unsure whether that was being understood or not at the time of course, I was just trying to answer the questions in that big room in that big space. And I think of some significant events that we’ve gone through as a country that we’ve all experienced. For example, the space shuttle Challenger or 9/11, where we all were having a traumatic experience just by witnessing the event. 

And when people look back at the narratives and interviews for people that did watch those events, they have very, very specific memories. They can describe the television set in detail. They can describe the person standing next to them in detail. What they have encoded is very detailed – to some extent. Yet if you start asking them, what did you have for breakfast that day or what did you have for lunch afterward or what were you wearing, some of those details are obscured because the brain is focused on other details. I think that’s a helpful model and example for all of us to think about. That of course, survivors aren’t going to remember every detail of an experience, but they’re going to – what they do remember is going to be very specific and accurate. 

Anita: I think it’s just being able to tell survivors that is comforting, because I think one of the things that we do is we blame ourselves because maybe we could have been clearer about something. And knowing how the brain works, how it works in each of us could be really helpful to people really coming forward and being confident in their own testimonies. 

Christine: Yes. Yes. And what I’ve learned from-from the survivors who have written is that everyone remembers different components of their assault or harassment. I have letters from people who say they don’t recall exactly where they were, but it was on a beach and it was at night. And then other survivors who can describe in in a very detailed manner what they were thinking, what was going through their mind at the time of the assault, whereas the physical surroundings isn’t something that they encoded into their long term memory. There is some diversity in terms of what we each remember. But what we do remember is typically very accurate and detailed and specific.

Cindi: Christine, you mentioned your research–and we know you both work with students. How does that change how you feel about progress on the kinds of issues that we’re talking about? 

Christine: They’re very hopeful and they make me really hopeful. A lot of the students I work with are sort of on the front lines in terms of treating the symptoms of people who have survived trauma. And their view of-of the future makes me hopeful.

Anita: Well, my thinking is is similar to yours, but I I will say that uh judging by the behavior of many of the people in that generation, you know, they’re not all in favor of-of progress. There are members of that generation who behave just as badly as their fathers and grandfathers. But I also agree that part of the problem is that they have inherited systems that we reward the bad behavior. And challenging those systems is very difficult. So I think that there’s hope for progress, but my real feeling is that relying on them is a cop out. 

Christine: Mhmm

Anita: it’s our generation saying, ‘oh, well, we don’t have to worry about it. We’re not going to fix it, let them fix it’ when there are things that we need to be doing right now to make them more able to-to fix the problem. I’m just you know hopeful that that we will be able to see this as a collective effort across generations and that we’re the generation – which I consider myself a baby boomer – we’re the generation that can take the lead on this and not wait for young people to have to live through it.   

Salamishah: One of the things I think that we’re able to do now and thanks to a lot of young feminists, is talk about women’s anger and women’s rage in different ways. So I didn’t know if you experienced anger during your process or afterwards, if you experienced grief. And then how, men’s rage and men’s anger was used against you to turn them into victims and you into villains. 

Christine: I get quite a bit of correspondence where people speak about my composure or my demeanor during the hearing, and part of that is, is fear. It’s a pretty scary seat to sit in. And you’re looking at the seal of the United States of America and in awe of that. And I grew up in Washington, D.C., so we frequently visited the Senate, the Supreme Court, the White House for field trips. And there was a demeanor that we were told how to behave. 

And in fact, that the Supreme Court was where we had to be on our very best behavior. So there are also rules about how to behave in the Senate gallery. And if anyone violated those rules, whether it was chewing gum or walking too loudly so that your shoes were heard, uh, hitting the ground, we were we would be in trouble. And so when I entered that building, it was almost like I was entering this building that I had revered my entire life and that I had visited my entire life. And those rules of demeanor were ingrained in me and so I was certainly surprised by the fact that not everyone who participated in the hearing did not maintain that same demeanor. But I also have to point out that I didn’t watch my own testimony, nor much of of the other. You know, I lived it. I don’t feel like I need to go back and watch it. But yeah, I am surprised to see what I did see in terms of-of demeanor. And to your point about-about anger and grief, you know, most certainly there was a phase afterward, that I was grieving and adjusting and trying to get our life stabilized. We were pretty uprooted. There was a lot of upheaval afterward. And yes, there are still days when I can get very upset and very angry when I think about particular things and I’m reminded of particular things that happened. 

Anita: So I was smiling when I heard Christine talk about understanding how you were supposed to behave in these very formal settings like the Senate and the Supreme Court, and I grew up in a household with parents who were born in 1911 and 1912. My mother was born in Arkansas, rural Arkansas. My father was born in Oklahoma, and they both mostly grew up in Oklahoma. Both of those settings were Jim Crow settings. So we were taught to behave too,[laughs] but for a different reason: because not behaving could get you in trouble. And you certainly weren’t going to get ahead, and get out from under those systems by not behaving, in their minds. I mean that in that generation of, you know, poor Black farmers misbehaving could end up getting you killed. So, it-it’s amazing to me that two people from entirely different backgrounds, the commonality is this is how you behave [laughs]. And I think that’s true of so many of us. We know how to comport ourselves to be believed in those places or be heard in those places. And then finally, in terms of emoting, I’ve learned maybe – and you know there’s no real science to this – but I also feel like it just kind of depends on where you are on the spectrum. There are people who are very effusive and demonstrative of their anger and grief, and there are those of us who are less so. And it doesn’t mean we don’t feel that. It just means that we respond to it differently.

Cindi: I Want to ask you both, since you’re in a incredibly unique position to to answer this – Right now, you’re sort of a club of two people who have literally sat in a room that, most of us can’t imagine. I’m imagining that, you know, out there listening to this, there’s a woman or potentially thousands of women who are considering speaking up about something that a person more powerful did. And I’m-I’m wondering, what do you want them– what do you want that woman to know? 

Christine: I would want them to know that I’m incredibly sorry and that I feel terrible for them and very sorry for whatever has happened to them. And if I could speak with them directly to ask them, how are they doing and are they doing OK, ask them if there’s anything I can do to support them. And I think that language is a little bit different than the language that we use with survivors. And I’ve learned this just since 2018 that we use this, “I believe you” language and when I met with people to tell them what had happened and they said, ‘I believe you’, it was admittedly a little bit awkward. sort of like I had told them my name is Christine and they had said, [laughs] I believe you. So I think it comes from a-a wonderful place of support. It might be the only thing that we say that about that we say to a person, I believe you. And is that the most helpful thing to say? I’m not sure. Are there other things that are also helpful to say? 

But it just really occurs to me that when I have told people of other bad things that have happened to me in my life, the response wasn’t, I believe you. 

Anita: Yeah. I like this idea of-of really interrogating this approach of I believe you. What does that say? Maybe, I know other people don’t believe you. [laughs] I mean, what is it saying. 

Christine: [laughs] Yes! I think that’s it. 

Anita: But um I do want to know if they are OK. But then-then my mind quickly goes to – what are your resources. Do you understand the process? Do you know who you need to talk to? Do you know how you need to frame your story to be heard? I do care about where they are, but I also want to be able to support what is their ultimate goal, and that is to be heard. And so my approach is very different. And, you know, I’ve been saying this for the last thirty years now. I’m still not at the point where I can tell every person who has been violated that they should step forward into a system. I can’t tell them that. I can help prepare them if they decide to do that, I can help them make the decision about whether to do that. But I can’t just tell people to come forward, knowing what I know about the potential consequences. So I really do reject this idea that things will change if more people will come forward, if more women would just step up. My feeling is that more things will change if we provide systems and processes so that people can come forward. They can be heard. But we’re not there yet.

Salamishah: So if that one woman who was watching you, the thousands of women who were watching you and they ask you a simple question, was it worth it? What would you say? 

Christine: I get that question often, I have people who say, do you regret it? It’s a very common question. And certainly people in my community have seen how upended my life is and what we had to go through as a family. And all the smear media and the destroying of reputation and attempt at destroying career. And I’m absolutely sure that I would do it again. And that’s not to say that it hasn’t been really, really, really hard and that I’m still not as OK as I would like to be, three years out of the situation. I certainly wish I was doing better than I am. Uh, but I do firmly believe I would do it again. And I also believe that anyone in my situation would have also done that if they could, if they safely could, and if they had the resources to do so. 

Because I think that there’s a difference between the hypothetical of would you speak up versus the reality of holding that information and keeping it to yourself and the discomfort around that, that that’s not a comfortable way to live your life either, is to to not say anything. 

Anita: Yeah, and my answer to that question really goes back to why I testified. The why that I testified is just as important to me today as it was 30 years ago, when I was struggling with this during the summer of 1991. The why is-is because the Supreme Court matters and who’s on the Supreme Court matters. And I really want to believe in the integrity of that body. Because we now more than ever see how important the decisions that it makes are to all of us, all of our well-being. 

But, having said that, I realize that I had things that other people didn’t have, for example, and my situation is different from Christine’s. I don’t have children. I had a job that was supposedly protected. I had tenure. I had a degree that helped me understand some of the ways that the, uh, hearing was being held counter to the law. I had a supportive family, had supportive colleagues, versus someone who is making tips wages or minimum wage or, you know, sub-minimum wage, who has no certainty that they’re going to be able to keep their job or get another one if they have to step up. Because even if the complaint has nothing to do with the job, you can still lose your job. 

These consequences of standing up are real. Would I do it again? Yes. But again, I’m not in a position to tell anyone that they should do it. And I understand people who have gone through systems and say that they would never do again what they did when they complained because it was just too awful, the consequences were too awful. So in that sense, I know I’m privileged to have been able to weather this. 

I just want to say, you know, to Christine, that it-it does get better. 

Christine:  Thank you.

Anita: It will continue to get better. This is always going to be part of-of your life that, uh, the assault and and the experience of the hearing. But, I just see in you the ability to make sense out of it. And not only make sense, but I’m also hearing in you the ability to make some benefit out of it, some benefit that’s going to help other people. 

So. It’s not gonna be the same, ever going to be the same, but it’s going to be all right. 

Christine: Thank you so much. That’s…it is really great to hear that. And I do look forward to being in a position to help others and figuring out how to do that.

Salamishah: I’m Salamishah Tillet. 

Cindi: And I’m Cindi Leive. “Because of Anita” is a production of Pineapple Street Studios and The Meteor. 

Salamishah: Our senior producer is Kat Aaron and our managing producer is Agerenesh Ashagre. 

Cindi: This show was also produced by Justine Daum. Our associate producers are Janelle Anderson, and Xandra Ellin. 

Salamishah: Our editor is Leila Day. 

Cindi: Our project lead for The Meteor is Rebecca Halperin. Fact-checking by Ivette Manners. 

Salamishah: Our engineers are Davy Sumner, Raj Makhija, and Hannis Brown. Special thanks to Joel Lovell and Maddy Sprung-Keyser at Pineapple Street and Kara Kearns at The Meteor. This episode features original composition by Davy Sumner, Raj Makhija, and Hannis Brown.  Additional music from Blue Dot Sessions.

Cindi: Our show art is by Pentagram and our additional art is by Pixelittle. Our executive producers at the Meteor are us, Salamishah Tillet and Cindi Leive. And our executive producers at Pineapple Street are Max Linsky and Jenna Weiss-Berman. Thank you to Professor Anita Hill and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for joining us for this episode.


Because of Anita - Episode 2

Episode 2 – The Aftermath

Please note: This transcript has been automatically generated.

Cindi: Hey, We’re going to be talking about sexual misconduct and violence in this series and in today’s episode. Please take care of yourself while you’re listening. 

Cindi: This is “Because of Anita,” a four-part series about Anita Hill, and the legacy of her testimony.   

Salamishah: I’m Salamishah Tillet. 

Cindi: And I’m Cindi Leive.  

VICE PRESIDENT QUAYLE: On this vote, the yeas are 52 and the nays are 48. The nomination of Clarence Thomas of Georgia to be Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court is hereby confirmed.

Salamishah: The morning after Clarence Thomas was confirmed I remember being in the car and listening to REM’s song The End of the World As We Know It. And I remember thinking it was such an apropos song. It was so devastating. It was so tragic because I felt like in that one moment of his confirmation, some dystopia that I dreaded had come to fruition. 

Cindi: Yeah, that moment definitely knocked the wind out of me, too. I remember being so viscerally angry at how Anita Hill was dismissed. But there was also, in retrospect, so much that I just didn’t understand. 

I was looking at the hearings and what came out of them through my personal lens as a white woman, I was working as a junior editor at Glamour magazine and surrounded by a mostly white staff. So when Clarence Thomas used the term “high-tech lynching”, it made me uncomfortable, but I didn’t fully understand its implications. And I definitely didn’t understand that even if the hearings were painful for me to watch, they were painful on a whole other level for black women.

Salamishah: It was painful. I mean, I think when he uses that phrase high tech lynching, he puts black people in a position to choose between him and Anita Hill. 

Conversations that black people have amongst each other in private, not in front of white people, about gender and race, were now on the public stage. And in that moment, I think so many black women around the country realize that we all were Anita Hill. 

Cindi:  So that’s why it’s so important for us to do this episode. You’ll hear from three guests, all black women who are affected by the hearings in strikingly different ways.  

For Carol Moseley Braun, the hearings were galvanizing. 

Carol Moseley Braun: I started the campaign for the United States Senate. That was my first response. And so. quite frankly, the women here in Illinois they showed up in my office. They proceeded to start writing checks. They made phone calls. They did the volunteer grunt work that goes into getting elected and to winning a campaign. 

Cindi: For Drew Dixon, the hearings felt like a warning.

Drew Dixon: Anita Hill impacted me not just in a sort of general abstract way, what happened to her crushed me in the years that followed and absolutely informed my choices every day that I tolerated the sexual harassment that culminated in a rape at Def Jam.

Salamishah: But we’re going to start with Barbara Ransby.  

Barbara Ransby: The spectacle of the hearings was particularly gut wrenching and the humiliation of someone like Anita Hill, who could have been our friend, our colleague, our neighbor, our sister, was just galling. 

Salamishah: Barbara Ransby lives in Chicago, where she’s a writer, activist and professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago. 

In 1991, Ransby was one of the women behind the historic ad that ran in the NYTimes in support of Anita Hill soon after the hearings. 

There’s a framed copy of that ad hanging in my hallway. It’s a full page spread, a silhouette of a black woman with names of hundreds of Black women in fine print behind her. The type across the top says: “African-American Women in Defense of Ourselves.” It’s a really powerful greeting for everyone who comes into my home and everyone who leaves. 

Salamishah: But to understand why it means so much to me, let me take you back to 1991.  

In the early 90s, the headlines were full  of African American men who were being victimized by the state.  A couple of years before Anita Hill’s testimony, Donald Trump had taken out a full page ad against the boys who became known as the Central Park Five, who were wrongly convicted of rape. Two years after that, the world watched as a man named Rodney King was brutally attacked by the police in Los Angeles.  It was a horrible time…

Barbara Ransby: This idea that Black men were being wrongly accused of course, comes against the backdrop of many Black men being wrongly accused. so that is a real part of our history. Another real part of our history is that Black women have been victims of both harassment, rape and violence from white men and from Black men. And so, in a sense, Clarence Thomas used the larger trajectory of African-American history to his advantage to undermine or attempt to undermine the credibility of Anita  Hill, to say he was a victim of a high tech lynching. 

And that, again, was particularly outrageous to us as feminists. That no Black woman could make the allegation of rape without carrying on her back the weight of white supremacist practices and racism in this country, which all Black people have been victims of over time. So I think Anita Hill was caught in that skewed framing of race and gender when, of course, we all have multiple identities. But we wanted to make some intervention to have our voices as Black women be legible, myself and uh also Elsa Barkley Brown, Deborah King or other academics were talking about what could we do? 

Cindi: I love this phrase that you’re using this image of an intervention that you were trying to intervene. What was the narrative that you were trying to intervene in? And then when did you and your collaborators start having a discussion about what ultimately became the ad? 

Barbara Ransby: Well, you know, the intervention was to make our voices heard and to make our collective Black women’s voices heard. And our experiences, which were experiences of women who had experienced sexual harassment and in some cases sexual assault and violence, but women who are also experiencing racism and the reductionist view of those categories and those forms of oppression was what we were trying to intervene to both complicate and give voice to. 

And there was this collective cry of, yes, we were feeling the same things. Yes, we want to contribute. Yes. Add my name. So the three of us crafted a statement that we, felt reflected the conversations we were having and put out the call for people to respond. We wanted 1000 signatures. We got sixteen hundred and raised fifty thousand dollars, which at that time, felt like quite a lot of money. The mechanics of mobilizing the African-American women in defense of ourselves ad campaign was, you know, it was more than a notion and we enlisted a number of people. I remember my at the time, seven year old son was was opening envelopes, you know, that we had collected from the mail.I mean, we didn’t have a graphic designer. We had all the names. We had them typed in. We decided to put the statement in the middle and have all the names around it. That was our sophisticated design strategy. Um And then I took a Sharpie marker and did a squiggly line with dots in it as the border just to make it look a little bit, you know, a little bit more, um I don’t know, visually uh appealing, I don’t know if it accomplished that or not [laughs]

Salamishah: What does it mean to have this as part of the public record? Why is it important to have Black women’s organizing on behalf of Anita Hill or in defense of each other as part of the public record? 

Barbara Ransby: We wanted there to be a record of Black women’s and Black feminist voices on this. And so you know, I’m a historian by training, so you know, historical silences and historical voices are important. And so often when we look back to tell the story of the past, we are operating at a deficit. The extant voices are the ones that you know of, people who could leave diaries, who could who had letters, who were literate, who could make a public statement. And so had we not done that, you know, another generation from now would have said, you know, Black women are represented by whoever was writing in The New York Times or Black women are represented by whatever the media summary of the events were. And we just didn’t see ourselves in those official representations and we wanted our own and so it has become a part of the official record. 

Cindi: When you talk about not seeing yourselves, I think of the op-ed that the Black scholar Orlando Patterson published in the New York Times just after the hearings. Do you remember that?

Barbara Ransby: [laughs] Oh my goodness. Basically, he made the case that even if this had happened, to Anita Hill, that there was an understanding between Black men and women that there was a certain kind of flirtation, and that essentially sexual harassment was innocent and in a sense, authentic Black women knew how to thwart those advances and shouldn’t have aired dirty laundry in public. So the debate was heated and that was a particular low point. 

Cindi: About a month after Patterson’s column ran, Ransby, King and Brown’s ad appeared in the Sunday New York Times. It took up a full page. And it’s last sentence read, “No one will speak for us but ourselves.”  

Barbara Ransby: You know, oppressed people and aggrieved people always try to push back in one way or another. We don’t always document it. But in this case, at least, our outrage was documented. And, you know, look, an ad is not going to change the world, but it is one tactic of mobilizing people and it’s one tactic of making connections and giving voice. If that’s all we ever do, it’s woefully inadequate. But it is, you know, one drop in the bucket in terms of tactics and strategies for change. 

Salamishah: Thousands of people saw that ad. And one of them was Anita Hill. She later said it was one of the few things in those early weeks that made her feel less isolated.    

The ad was just one of the ways women mobilized in the wake of Anita Hill’s testimony. There was also—politics. Right so, having watched their Senators ignore charges of sexual harassment, a lot of women told themselves, ‘Maybe I should have that job.’

And so in the next election cycle, 1992, it got called the Year of the Woman.

Cindi: I was a magazine editor in New York, and I begged my boss to let me assign a reporter to cover those races. Everyone talked about it like it was a huge wave of women vying for house seats—in retrospect there weren’t that many, it was more like a ripple, but the numbers were so catastrophically low to begin with that honestly, any improvement looked like a takeover. 

A lot of women were actually annoyed by that “Year of the Woman” stuff. One Senator at the time, Barbara Mikulski, joked that it was like calling it the year of the caribou, or the year of the asparagus – you know, some outlandish anomaly, rather than just half the population actually believing they deserved to be represented. Which was what Carol Moseley Braun had in mind.  

Carol Moseley Braun: I watched the hearings, of course. And like everybody else, I was touched by it. It was really clear to me that she was A, telling the truth and B, that that was an experience that every woman I knew, black or white, had had some variation of an experience with. 

Salamishah: In 1991, Moseley Braun was the Recorder of Deeds in Cook County, Illinois. Before that, she had served 5 terms in the Illinois House of Representatives. Her Senator was a Democrat, but had voted to confirm Thomas.   

Carol Moseley Braun: I’m sufficiently old school that I had reached out to our incumbent United States senator to tell him how much I objected to his vocal support for Thomas. And I remember talking about the civil rights movement and all that Thurgood Marshall meant to young people like me, — I was young then, but anyway — when I tell you he just did not get it, I mean, the more I talked about civil rights, the more this guy was just removed and detached from the argument I was making. And so I thought to myself, this guy just does not get it. He just will not understand why this is a problem. and that was when I began to kind of formulate a plan to, you know, run for the office. It’s just that simple.

Cindi: [laughs] 

Carol Mosely Braun: That was my first response. 

Salamishah: At the time Moseley Braun decided to run, there were just two women in the US Senate, that’s exactly two percent of that body. Both of them were white. No Black woman had ever been elected to the Senate. But Moseley Braun was ready. 

Carol Moseley Braun: People thought I was delusional and crazy for getting out there. But I thought, you know, I got as many qualifications as any of the guys who were running for the Senate all over the country. 

I mean, I’m a lawyer, a University of Chicago trained lawyer. I’ve been assistant United States attorney. I had worked my way up through the state legislature to the county office. I mean, I had the credentials and the qualifications to do the job. And I knew what I was getting into. So having said that, my attitude was, you know, if I’m qualified, then why wouldn’t I do this? 

Cindi: Once you’re through the election and you arrive in Washington, what was that feeling of sort of kinship and immediacy with the incoming women senators, or did that not really exist? 

Carol Moseley Braun: I think some lifetime relationships were forged in that crucible. And that’s what it was, because it – particularly for me, it was very difficult 

I ran into both racism and sexism.  I mean, I had a job to do. and I just set about doing it, that’s all.

Cindi: Senator Joe Biden had a specific request for Moseley Braun. He wanted her to join the Senate Judiciary Committee—yup, the same committee that had questioned Anita Hill a year earlier.  

Carol Moseley Braun: Joe Biden had talked me into being on the Judiciary Committee, by the way. I did not want to go on that committee originally, but anyway I said you just want Anita  Hill on the other side of the table. I thought that was a hilarious joke, but he did not, um uh. And so I literally optics on it was that Anita Hill was now on the other side of the table. And that was fine by me. 

Cindi: In her first months in the Senate, Moseley Braun faced off against Senator Jesse Helms, the long time and powerful Republican senator from North Carolina. She had noticed a line in a Senate bill that protected a design patent held by the United Daughters of the Confederacy for an image of the Confederate flag. She objected—and ended up taking on Senator Helms.  

Carol Moseley Braun: That bill, had been passed and confirmed by the Senate for a generation, almost, I mean, had been routinely renewed, my staffer came up to me with a note that said Jesse Helms has just taken to the Senate floor with the Confederate flag. So I then hightailed it out of the committee hearing and went across the campus to the Senate floor and proceeded to filibuster that renewal for the patent on the Confederate flag. 


Cindi: She won that fight, and stopped the patent renewal. Then, when she and Senator Helms ran into each other in an elevator after the vote, he sang a song to her – or at her. The song? I Wish “I Was in Dixie Land,” a favorite of the confederacy.  

Carol Moseley Braun: We’re on the elevator and he turns around and says, ‘I’m going to sing this Dixie until she cries. I want to make her cry and I’m going to sing Dixie until she cries.’ And I said, ‘Senator, you could sing Rock of Ages and it would make me cry,’ 

Salamishah: mmm

Carol Mosely Braun: He wasn’t used to dealing with somebody who grew up on the south side of Chicago and knows about signifying. OK, [laughs] so. 

Salamishah: [laughs]

Salamishah: Today, there are 143 women in Congress – just over a quarter of the members. This shift in balance began back in 1991, with Hill’s testimony.  

Carol Moseley Braun: And that was the beginning, frankly, of a popular awakening that we are now seeing the fruits of. The fact is that the status of and condition of women, violence against women, this was never an issue before. And a generation ago, when I first started out in politics, it was not even discussed. And so now, because of Anita Hill, it’s not only discussed, but we’re actually seeing things happen because of it. 

Cindi: In this episode, we’re hearing from Black women about how Anita Hill’s testimony affected them, and the choices they made. Carol Moseley Braun and Barbara Ransby were both motivated to take political action. To make public change. 

Salamishah: But for a lot of women, the impact of Anita Hill was far more personal. More private, right? So less a spark, more of a warning. And many of those women have not shared their stories. 

That’s something I wanted to talk about with Drew Dixon. Because when I heard her story of sexual assault, it resonated with my own. ..

Salamishah: In the early 1990s, Dixon was an executive at Def Jam, THE hip hop label of the era. She helped launch the careers of Method Man and, later, Lauryn Hill. She was a taste-maker. 

But in 1995, Dixon says, she was raped by her boss at Def Jam, Russell Simmons. He denies the allegations.

Cindi: Dixon kept quiet about that assault  for years. Decades. And she says it was partly because of the long shadow of what had happened to Anita Hill. 

Drew Dixon: Anita Hill impacted me not just in a sort of general abstract way, what happened to her inspired me for the few days that I thought it would matter and then sort of crushed me in the years that followed and absolutely informed my choices every day that I tolerated the sexual harassment that culminated in a rape at Def Jam. Anita Hill was on my mind the whole time. 

Cindi: Like so many of us, Dixon had watched the hearings on TV. She was in college, at Stanford.   

Drew Dixon: I was riveted. I watched the Anita Hill hearings, you know, from the beginning to the end with my roommate, another Black woman who’s now an OB/GYN in Oakland. And it was really transformational. We had a little square chunky TV in our kind of dining living kitchen area, which was also my room separated by like a curtain. [laughs] 

Cindi: [laughs]

Drew Dixon: I’m not even sure how we fit the hearings into our schedules as students. I just know that we were riveted and that it sort of stopped time for me to see this woman who I identified with so much. I identified with her as a Black woman. I identified with her as a serious intellectual, academic, professional woman. And I identified with her feeling of isolation in this sea of predominantly men in their suits in this old traditional institution. You know, as a Black woman at Stanford, sitting often in lecture halls surrounded by lots of white men, I could relate to just what she was carrying, what all of us are carrying as Black women when we enter these spaces 

Drew Dixon: And so just everything about Anita Hill felt familiar to me. And I was just stunned that she was calling it out, frankly, because it’s kind of like the air, who notices the air? I’d been breathing that sort of toxic, masculine, patriarchal air my whole life and just assumed I had to kind of tolerate it. And I was just stunned that she had the courage to call it out. 

Cindi: So thinking again about this experience, of you’re you’re watching her and it sounds like her testimony and her voice so powerfully affected you… 

Drew Dixon: Her presence affected me, her persona affected me, her dignity affected me, her very – just her undeniable sort of integrity and intelligence and grace affected me. And then for her to have to say such odious things, in sort of this austere space where she was so full of grace. But then she had to talk about pubic hair and, you know the genitalia of her boss, who was being nominated for the Supreme Court, -the juxtaposition of the language that she was forced to use and her just dignified carriage was striking, was jaw dropping. The work she was doing for all of us as Black people, as black women and as women in general with the suit and the hair and the carriage. It’s all work that is invisible to men, probably, and to white men, I’m sure. The work that you do even before you open your mouth in terms of the choices you make about how you look and how you carry yourself when you enter those rooms. I could feel it. I could feel the work she was doing just by sitting there and being so dignified. The Black community had more sympathy for this black man who was going to roll back so many of the advances we’ve made as Black people. But they cared more about protecting him than protecting her, even when it didn’t serve our interest as black people that I knew good and well to keep my mouth shut about Russell Simmons because no one thought I should even be making rap records in the first place. 

Salamishah: She says one of the reasons she remained quiet was because of the stereotypes around Black mens’ sexuality, and how those myths had been used to take down Black men.  It was a choice that weighed heavily on her. 

Drew Dixon: The stereotype of the violent, predatory, hyper sexualized Black man is something I thought about every single day for the 22 years, frankly, that I didn’t come forward. I did not want to throw a match on that gasoline that is used to destroy the lives and to take away the liberty of so many innocent Black men and boys. The Central Park five happened also right before I got to New York, before I got the job at Def Jam,   the O.J. Bronco car chase, you know, cut across my TV screen when I was watching the Knicks and it dominated the headlines for my entire career at Def Jam.

Drew Dixon: I was in the Def Jam offices and we all cheered when the verdict was announced. And I thought the building was going to come down because we all cheered so hard. And three weeks later, I was raped by Russell Simmons he’s the king of hip hop. And I was very clear about how that could be weaponized against Black people. And that would give mainstream media another black boogeyman. And that would also be weaponized against hip hop. And I thought that the importance of protecting innocent Black men and boys from that dangerous mythology was worth my silence. 

Salamishah: You know, as a fellow rape survivor who’s been sexually assaulted by Black men and I’ve always been struck by how Black women are very aware of this, the myth of the black male rapist and protecting Black men from a a very cruel and-and racist judicial system. But the myth of Black women, um as you know, the flip side of that was the Black Jezebel the Black whore um like overly licentious black women. And I was wondering if you saw that in Anita Hill in terms of the way people framed her and then did that impact how you thought people would see you?

Drew Dixon: Well, first of all, I’m sorry. And I want to acknowledge what you shared with me. So thank you for sharing that with me. 

Salamishah: Thank you. 

Drew Dixon: You’re absolutely right. Black women walk around protecting Black men all day, every day, and they know it. They count on it. They benefit from it. They do not reciprocate. For me, in real time as a senior at Stanford, I related to Anita Hill. I was proud of Anita Hill. I believed Anita Hill and I thought it would matter. And when it didn’t matter, there’s a level on which I think I just detached and buried it and took the hard lesson. And that’s kind of all I retained was the lesson that no one cared. And I didn’t examine it further.

Cindi: After Dixon was assaulted, she says she was completely exhausted. She knew she had to leave Def Jam.

Drew Dixon: I mean, I had like a nervous breakdown. I’d been raped. I cut off all my hair. I went and told my mentor, I think maybe the next day. And then I didn’t leave my apartment for like a month. And then I went back to work for a couple weeks. And when I was in the office, Russell asked me to sit on his lap and it was so demoralizing that I think that’s when I left and actually had all my hair cut off. And then I submitted a handwritten letter of resignation with, like, cross outs, like I didn’t even have the physical strength to crumple it up and start a new paper.

Cindi: Dixon didn’t speak publicly about what had happened with Russell Simmons.

Drew Dixon: I didn’t want to be the Anita Hill of hip hop. I didn’t. I saw how that worked out for her. My sense was that the Black community was embarrassed by Anita Hill and impatient with Anita Hill. And that’s what I remembered. That’s what sort of baked itself into my bone marrow. And that’s what I carried with me into my career. 

Cindi: Dixon tried to stay in the music industry she loved. But it was impossible, she says, to find a safe space to work.  After leaving Def Jam, she went to Arista Records, where her boss was L.A. Reid. Who, she says, sexually harassed her. 

Drew Dixon: The harassment was pervasive and it was an, a roadblock and it was a stranglehold and it ended my career. And so I just want to be really clear that sexual harassment, when it is weaponized, to reroute you and reroute you and reroute you until you comply is violent and should not be overlooked because it is juxtaposed in my story with rape. It was violent and career ending and devastating. 

Cindi: You know, you talked about this feeling and this sort of awareness of how Anita Hill was viewed as being baked into your bone marrow and so it stayed there, it sounds like, for many years, but I want to fast forward to 2017, when you started to make different choices and spoke first to The New York Times and then to the On The Record documentary about what Russell Simmons did. And I’m curious how much were you thinking, You know, I hope that this thing that I’ve been dreading, that I will not be supported, is not actually the case? 

Drew Dixon: I really have carried Anita Hill with me since those hearings, and especially because I then went on in my own career to experience sexual harassment. And I carried her with me when I decided to come forward. And it occurred to me, you know, I don’t know what Anita Hill’s professional trajectory would have been if she hadn’t come forward, but as far as I know, she’s alive and well and living somewhere with her integrity. And I’ll take it. I’ll take it. If they hate me, they hate me. If they misunderstand me, they misunderstand me. If they don’t believe me, that’s on them. Because this is not just my truth. It is the truth. And I know I love my people. And if they don’t know that, that’s their problem. I am just going to tell the truth. 

Salamishah: Neither Russell Simmons nor LA Reid have admitted any wrongdoing, and neither has been charged with a crime. As for Drew Dixon, the On the Record documentary came out in 2020, and today, she is producing music, and writing.  

Like Anita Hill, she says she’s okay.

Drew Dixon: Because of Anita, I had the vocabulary and the framework to even understand the nature of the harm that was being done to me and because of Anita, I knew that even if my career was ruined, which had it already been effectively ruined, and even if I was blackballed and ostracized and unemployable and untouchable, I would survive. I would live. I would find my people, I would find my place, and I would have my peace and I would be OK. 

Cindi: In our next episode, a conversation between two women who are, effectively, a club of two. Professor Anita Hill herself sits down with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified 27 years after her. It’s their first public conversation. And it’s powerful.  

Salamishah: I’m Salamishah Tillet. 

And I’m Cindi Leive. 

Because of Anita is a production of Pineapple Street Studios and The Meteor. 

Salamishah: Our senior producer is Kat Aaron and our managing producer is Agerenesh Ashagre. 

Cindi: This show was also produced by Justine Daum. Our associate producers are Janelle Anderson, and Xandra Ellin. 

Our editor is Leila Day. 

Our project lead for The Meteor is Rebecca Halperin. 

Fact-checking by Ivette Manners. 

Salamishah: Our engineers are Davy Sumner and Raj Makhija and Hannis Brown. 

Special thanks to Joel Lovell and Maddy Sprung-Keyser at Pineapple Street.

This episode features original composition by Davy Sumner, Raj Makhija and Hannis Brown.

Additional music from Blue Dot Sessions.

Cindi:  Our show art is by Pentagram and our additional art is by Pixelittle.

Our executive producers at the Meteor are us, Salamishah Tillet and Cindi Leive. Our C-O-O at the Meteor is Kara Kearns. And our executive producers at Pineapple Street are Max Linsky and Jenna Weiss Berman. 

Salamishah:Thank you to Dr. Barbara Ransby, Ambassador Carol Mosely Braun, and Drew Dixon for joining us for this episode. 


Because of Anita - Episode 1

Episode 1 – The Testimony

Please note: This transcript has been automatically generated.

Cindi: Hey, we’re going to be talking a lot about sexual misconduct and violence in this series. Please take care while you’re listening.

Anita Hill: my name is Anita F. Hill

Woman news host: Hill told National Public Radio that Thomas pressured her to go out with him while she worked for him in the early 1980s. And when she refused, she says, he talked about scenes from pornographic movies

Anita Hill: I felt I had a duty to report.

Sen. Howell Heflin: Do you have a martyr complex?

Anita Hill: I have no personal vendetta against Clarence Thomas.

Sen. Howell Heflin: Are you a scorned woman?

Anita Hill: it would have been more comfortable to remain silent.

Sen. Simpson: I would think that these things, what you describe, are so repugnant, so ugly, so obscene that you would never have talked to him again.

Sen. Specter: This is not too bad, women’s large breasts. That’s a word we use all the time.

Anita Hill: But when I was asked by a representative of this committee to report my experience, I felt that I had to tell the truth.

Woman Host 2: Both Judge Thomas and Professor Hill are black, and that community has a special interest in the outcome of this confrontation.

Speaker 2: Judge Thomas said that if this came out, it would ruin his career,

Anita Hill: I have nothing to gain here. I’ve been threatened and I have not gained anything except knowing that I came forward and did what I felt that I had an obligation to do, and that was to tell the truth.

Cindi: This is Because of Anita. A four-part series about Anita Hill and the legacy of her testimony.

Cindi: I’m Cindi Leive, I’m a journalist and an editor.

Salamishah: I’m Salamishah Tillet, and I’m a scholar and activist.

Cindi: 30 years ago this month, both of us were glued to our TVs watching Anita Hill testifying about now Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Salamishah: Today, we’ve been brought together by her testimony. And the lasting impact it has had on both of our lives, and how we see the world.

Cindi: When I first saw Anita Hill. This is what I knew about her. I knew she was accomplished. I knew she was 35 years old. That she was a law professor from Oklahoma, educated at Yale. I was in my early twenties, a white woman from Virginia, working in magazines – really different from Anita Hill in a lot of ways. But there was something about her that was deeply familiar to me. Her air of professionalism, her shoulder-padded suits, almost a kind of working woman’s armor. Anita Hill reminded me of my mom. My mom had been a biochemist, working in a man’s field.  And I knew she’d had to put up with a lot.

Salamishah: And I was 16 at the time, so I was in school that day. But when I came home and saw Anita Hill, in her iconic teal suit, with her hand up testifying, before that all-white Senate committee, she made a really deep impression on me. I was a black girl in a predominantly white private high school. So in many ways when I look back at that moment, I think I identified with her because she seemed so vulnerable but also empowered.

Salamishah: In this series we’re going to talk about how those hearings changed us and how they changed the people around us.

Cindi: We’re looking at things we didn’t know 30 years ago. We’ll talk to people who decided to take action and run for office, like former senator  Carol Moseley Braun.  We’ll look at what’s changed and what hasn’t with guests like Tarana Burke, who founded the Me Too movement.

And we’ll have a conversation with  Professor Hill and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who was called to testify in a 2018 confirmation hearing that looked very familiar.

Salamishah: But before we do that, we want to take you back to 1991.

President George H. W. Bush: I am very pleased to announce that I will nominate Judge Clarence Thomas to serve as associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Cindi: That’s President George Bush on July 1, 1991. He’s announcing his nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court.

Thomas had grown up in Pin Point, Georgia, and had become a staunch conservative. He hoped to become the court’s second Black justice, filling the seat vacated by the first, the legendary Civil rights pioneer Thurgood Marshall.

Salamishah: That fall, after a first round of hearings, the vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee was split – 7 for Thomas. 7 against.

The full Senate was scheduled to vote on the nomination. But two days before that vote,  this happened…

Newscaster: Tonight, there’s a new focus: sexual harassment. 

Cindi: Anita Hill had written a statement that detailed some of the ways Thomas had harassed her.

And newscasters rushed to share what they knew.

[cont. from above] A law professor at the University of Oklahoma is making that allegation. Anita Hill says she worked for Thomas at the U.S. Education Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Cindi: She had faxed her statement to then-Senator Joe Biden, who was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee

[cont from above] She says Thomas never physically touched her, but sometimes described his sexual desire for her in graphic detail.

Cindi: When she sent that fax, she asked that her name not be made public.

Salamishah: Then the press got hold of at least parts of her statement.

Host: The sexual harassment charges against Clarence Thomas is our lead story tonight. They came from University of Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill. President Bush said he continued to stand by his nominee. 

Salamishah: The very few women in Congress demanded that the vote on Thomas’s nomination be delayed.

Rosa DeLauro: The American people deserve more than a dismissal of Professor Hill’s charges. 

Cindi: Representative Rosa DeLauro speaking in the House.

Rosa DeLauro:  They deserve to know the truth. Mr. Speaker, let’s take the time to uncover the truth. 

Salamishah: On the evening of October 8, Anita Hill got a call at her house in Oklahoma, from Senator Biden. He told her there would be a second hearing. It would be public. And she’d be subpoenaed to testify.

Cindi: Anita Hill had less than seventy-two hours to get to Washington, DC, organize a legal team, and prepare to testify in front of millions of viewers.

Cindi: On Friday, October 11, 1991, Clarence Thomas’ second confirmation hearing began. Senator Biden gaveled in the meeting.

Biden: [gavel bang] the hearing will come to order. We are here today to hold open hearings on Professor Anita Hill’s allegations 

Salamishah: Clarence Thomas was given the choice to speak first or second. He chose to go first.

Clarence Thomas: I have not said or done the things that Anita Hill has alleged. This is not American. This is Kafka-esque.

Cindi: Professor Hill watched on TV from her hotel room.

Clarence Thomas: I am a victim of this process. My name has been harmed. My integrity has been harmed. There is nothing this committee, this body, or this country can do, to give me my good name back. Nothing. 

Salamishah: After Thomas read his statement, he left. And Anita Hill arrived.

Cindi: She entered this packed hearing room. Facing her sat the 14 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, eight Democrats, six Republicans, all white. All men.

Anita Hill: My name is Anita F. Hill and I’m a professor of law at the University of Oklahoma. I was born on a farm in Okmulgee County, Oklahoma, in 1956. I am the youngest of 13 children. I had my early education in Okmulgee County, my father, Albert Hill is a farmer in that area. My mother’s name is Irma Hill.

Cindi: Like a lot of people. I think I remember exactly where I was when I was watching the hearings. I was pretty freshly out of college and I had gone down to Washington, D.C. to throw a bridal shower. And I remember sitting on my dad and step mom’s bed cross legged and just being transfixed by the TV.

Anita Hill: I graduated from the university with academic honors and proceeded to the Yale Law School, where I received my JD degree in 1980.

Salamishah: I remember that moment.  I really remember Anita Hill going through great lengths to talk about her own academic pedigree. After Yale, she ended up in DC and that’s when she was introduced to Clarence Thomas. And then Thomas asked her if she’d like to be his legal assistant at the Department of Education.

But it was the way that she talked about her own family history that really stood out to me. How hard her parents had worked. And how they’d passed that work ethic onto her. It felt like she was reminding us that no amount of hard work or good behavior could protect a  woman from sexual harassment.

Anita Hill: After approximately three months of working there, he asked me to go out socially with him. What happened next, and telling the world about it are the two most difficult things, uh experiences of my life. It is only after a great deal of agonizing consideration and sleepless number – great number of sleepless nights, that I am able to talk of these unpleasant matters to anyone but my close friends. 

Cindi:  She was sitting alone at a table. Her legal team was behind her. And behind them were rows of observers, reporters and members of congressional staff.

Anita Hill: I declined the invitation to go out socially with him However, to my regret in the following few weeks, he continued to ask me out on several occasions. He pressed me to justify my reasons for saying no to him. These incidents took place in his office or mine, they were in the form of private conversations which not would not have been overheard by anyone else. My working relationship became even more strained, when Judge Thomas began to use work situations to discuss sex. 

Salamishah: She told the committee that the conversations were very vivid.

Anita Hill: [cont from above] He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes.

Cindi: Hill told the committee that Thomas eventually stopped harassing her. He told her he was in a relationship. She later said she thought the amusement he got out of his behavior must have died. When Thomas asked Hill to come with him to a new job at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or the EEOC, she agreed.  She cared about the work, and she needed a job. But after a few months, Thomas began bothering her again.

Anita Hill: One of the oddest episodes I remember was an occasion in which Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office. He got up from the table at which we were working. Went over to his desk to get the coke. Looked at the can and asked who has put pubic hair on my Coke? On other occasions, he referred to the size of his own penis as being larger than normal, and he also spoke on some occasions of the pleasures he had given to women. With oral sex. 

Salamishah: So Hill went looking for another job. And she found one, as a professor of law at a school in Oklahoma.

On her last day at the EEOC, however, she felt pressured by Thomas to have a going-away dinner with him.

Anita Hill: We talked about the work I had done both at education and at the EEOC. Finally, he made a comment that I will vividly remember. He said that if I ever told anyone of his behavior that it would ruin his career.

Cindi: Professor Hill knew at the time that she could have reported Thomas. She understood the laws around civil rights violations and sexual harassment better than most. But Thomas was literally the head of the EEOC, the agency that addresses harassment complaints in the US.

Anita Hill: I may have used poor judgment, perhaps I should have taken angry or even militant steps both when I was in the agency or after I left it. But I must confess to the world that the course that I took seemed the better as well as the easier approach. 

Cindi: She wanted to move on. To put her experiences with Clarence Thomas behind her.

She told the Committee that, over the years, they were in touch a few times: for a letter of recommendation and other professional things. But, for the most part, she assumed he’d stay in her past. And he did, until he was nominated to the Supreme Court.

Anita Hill: I have no personal vendetta against Clarence Thomas. It would have been more comfortable to remain silent. But when I was asked by a representative of this committee to report my experience, I felt that I had to tell the truth. I could not keep silent.

Cindi: The hearing was relentless. Over six and a half more hours,  the committee asked Hill to describe in graphic detail the sexual harassment she had already laid out in her opening statement.

Biden: Can you tell me what incidents occurred – of the ones you’ve described to us – occurred in his office?

Anita Hill: Well, I recall specifically that the incident about the Coke can occurred in his office at the EEOC.

Biden: And what was that incident again?

Anita Hill: The incident with regard to the coke can that’s spelled out in my statement.

Biden: Would you describe it once again for me, please.

Anita Hill: The [sighs], um, incident involved his going to his desk, getting up from a work table, going to his desk, looking at this can and saying ‘who put pubic hair on my Coke?’

Salamishah: And the questions kept coming.

Biden: At EEOC, in his office? What was the content of what he said?

Anita Hill: This was a reference to an individual who um h-had a very large penis and he used the name that he had been referred to and the pornographic material um

Biden: Do you recall what it was?

Anita Hill: Yes, I do. Um the name that was referred to was Long Dong Silver.

Cindi:  Over the course of the day, Senator Biden kept reminding the committee that this was a fact finding hearing. It wasn’t a trial, but honestly it felt like a trial and not a trial for Clarence Thomas. It felt like Anita Hill was on trial. The senators kept asking about her motives, like she’d committed a crime.

Heflin: Do you have a martyr complex? 

Cindi: Senator Howell Heflin, a Democrat of Alabama.

Sen. Howell Heflin: I’ve got to determine what your motivation might be. Are you a scorned woman? Are you a zealot, civil rights believer that progress will be turned back if Clarence Thomas goes on the court?

Cindi: Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican of Pennsylvania, was outright dismissive.

Sen. Specter: You testified this morning in response to Senator Biden that the most embarrassing question involved – this is not too bad – women’s large breasts. That’s a word we use all the time. 

Salamishah: When he said that, he even had a little smile on his face.

[cont from above] That was the most embarrassing aspect of what Judge Thomas had said to you 

Anita Hill: No, the most embarrassing aspect was his description of the acts of these individuals, these women, uh that the the acts that those particular people would engage in. 

Cindi:  And the senators kept harping on why Anita Hill chose to go with Clarence Thomas from one job to another.

Sen. Simpson: If what you say this man said to you occurred, why in God’s name would you ever speak to a man like that the rest of your life?

Anita Hill: That’s a very good question and I’m sure that I cannot answer that to your satisfaction. That is one of the things that I have tried to do today. I have suggested that I was afraid of retaliation. I was afraid of damage to my professional life. And I believe you that you have to understand that this response and that and that’s one of the things that I have come to understand about harassment, that this response, this kind of response is not atypical. And I can’t explain. It takes it takes an expert in psychology to explain how that can happen. But it can happen because it happened to me.

Cindi: Late in the evening, the questioning finally ended.

Anita Hill: I would just like to take this opportunity to thank the committee for its time, its questions, and its effort that it put into this investigation on my behalf. Thank you.

Cindi: After she finished speaking, Anita Hill left the building.

Salamishah: And then because he wanted to, Clarence Thomas came back, to respond to Hill’s testimony.

Clarence Thomas: I deny each and every single allegation against me today. As a black American, as far as I’m concerned, it is a high tech lynching. 

Salamishah: It was those words, “high tech lynching” that stood out for many of us. And the entire statement was even more jarring.

Thomas: [cont from above] A high tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas. And it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the US U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree. 

Cindi: The first day of the hearing wrapped at 10:34 PM.

Then there was a second day and a third day–with witnesses for both sides, and more testimony from Thomas.

But there were other witnesses who the public would never hear speak.

Three women were ready to share their own experiences of Clarence Thomas behaving inappropriately, and a fourth was ready to share her corroborating recollection. But Senator Biden never called them to testify.

By the end of the weekend of testimony, support for Thomas was high. You could hear it, in calls like this one to C-SPAN.

Caller 1: As a liberated woman, I was very concerned about Judge Thomas being confirmed to the um to the Supreme Court until these hearings. And now I’m a hundred percent behind him. AAnd I think she’s an embarrassment to all women.

Cindi: On October 14th, Biden closed the hearing. It was 2 in the morning.

Biden: This entire proceeding is ended. [gavel, clapping]

Salamishah: On Oct. 15, The Senate met to vote.

Vice President Quaye: On this vote, the yeas are 52 and the nays are 48. The nomination of Clarence Thomas of Georgia to be Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court is hereby confirmed.

Cindi: At the time, it was the narrowest margin in a Supreme Court Justice confirmation in more than a century.

Mr. Lehrer: After that announcement, President Bush issued a statement saying he had called Thomas to congratulate him. The President said the nation and the court will benefit from having a man of principle who is sensitive to the problems and opportunities facing all Americans.

Cindi:  The hearing was over. But its ripple effects were just beginning. Personally, the mental image of Anita Hill in that room being so openly questioned with such scorn and dismissiveness stuck with me for a while, I think I had seen the universe before that as a friendly place. And watching this clearly credible woman being treated with such dripping derision really pissed me off. And I think on some level, it kind of shattered an illusion of safety for me, of how I, as an adult woman would be treated in the world. So I was angry and I don’t know about you, but listening to these hearings again for me kind of brought a lot of that anger up.

Salamishah: I mean, I know what you mean. It makes me really, really mad today. But at the time, I was so young and I was less enraged and more confused because I didn’t understand what they were talking about. They were using these really sexually explicit terms and they were talking about pornography. And I was really confused. I was shocked. I was worried and also really wondered, is this what I was going to encounter when I entered the workplace? The parts that stood out to me also are those moments when she seems really vulnerable.

A year after Anita Hill gave her testimony, when I went to college, I was sexually assaulted by an African-American man. And I think I knew then how difficult it would be to come forward with allegations of assault. And so when I look back at her testimony, when I listen to her testimony and there are these moments in which she seems to somehow not doubt herself, but she is trying to explain or justify why she continued to work with him. I identify with those moments because when something in my case like sexual assault happens, you blame yourself and you spend so much time reliving those moments and trying to understand why this happened to you.

Of course, what happened to Anita Hill was not her fault. And what happened to Anita Hill was a decision made by Clarence Thomas over and over again. When I listened to that testimony, there were these cracks in these moments that I just wish we didn’t have to hear that she didn’t have to give us.

Cindi: That kind of brings up something that I think is really important to both of us, which is that you listen to this testimony and it’s very easy to think of these as the Anita Hill hearings or even the Anita Hill trial. But these were the Clarence Thomas hearings. He was the one who was there for a job interview. And one thing that’s important to both of us is that throughout this podcast, you’ll never hear us call these the Anita Hill hearings or the Anita Hill trial. Even though it wasn’t a trial, Anita Hill did have to gather a team of lawyers to guide her through the process. After the break, we’ll be talking to one of those lawyers, law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw and reporter Jane Mayer, who co-wrote the book on Clarence Thomas and actor Kerry Washington, who witnessed how the hearing divided her family.

We’ll be right back.

Cindi: Anita Hill’s testimony was a single moment in time, when we saw a Black woman stand up to this large institution that didn’t want to believe her. That didn’t want to see her. That didn’t want to hear her.

It reminds me of Fannie Lou Hamer testifying at the Democratic Convention in 1964. Rosa Parks doing a sit-in on the bus in Montgomery. And also a more recent image of this Black woman in Baton Rouge Louisiana, a black lives matter protestor, who has this flowing dress on and she walks up to these armed police officers.

I think it’s important to remember those moments. When a single person — a Black woman — stands up to power. These are such profound acts of patriotism, and also radical acts of dignity in the face of oppression.

Kimberle Crenshaw is part of that remembering. In the fall of 1991, Crenshaw was a young law professor at UCLA.

In the fall of 1991,  Kimberlé Crenshaw was a young law professor at UCLA. A few days before the Clarence Thomas hearings, she joined a conference call for people who wanted to support Anita Hill. It ended with a question: “How quickly can you get to DC?”

Kimberlé: I was in California, I uh basically hung up the phone. I grabbed a bag and and flew to D.C. and got there that morning is as as folks were convening.

Salamishah:  Crenshaw is still a law professor today, as well as the executive director of the African American Policy Forum at Columbia University. She’s probably best known for coining the term “intersectionality.” And she used the term to help us understand what happened to Anita Hill.

Kimberlé: I call this an intersectional failure because Black women had been erased from the conversation about race, racism and sexuality, and they’d been erased from the conversation about patriarchy and sexuality. So she was in no woman’s land. 

Cindi: Even before the hearings started, Crenshaw was no fan of Clarence Thomas. Especially given the seat he was filling—Thurgood Marshall’s.

Kimberlé: I was one of those who thought that it didn’t matter what color, what race, what background Clarence Thomas brought to the table. He was anti civil rights. And that was all that we needed to know. and Thurgood Marshall himself had said something about it doesn’t matter the color of the snake you are, a snake is a snake, and they’ll bite you, not notwithstanding. [laughs] So he was giving as clear a signal as possible that this was not going to be a pro-civil rights nomination.

Salamishah: Crenshaw thought Anita Hill’s opening statement went well.

Kimberlé: I thought that no one who listened to her could not think that she was telling the truth.

Salamishah: But then she heard Thomas’s response, and that high tech lynching line.

Kimberlé: when I heard him say tech lynching, my eyebrows, as my mother used to say, about flew off my head.

In the annals of history, I don’t think there was a time where anyone was lynched because of an accusation that a Black woman had made, so I was shocked and then I thought, well, this isn’t going to work. Black people know that this is not a lynching. Black people understand the history of lynching was basically about Black men being accused of sexually abusing white women. They’re not going to fall for this. That’s what I thought. [laughs] 

What I didn’t anticipate was how little purchase the history of Black women’s sexual abuse actually had in the Black community. I didn’t anticipate or fully understand that when Clarence Thomas threw down the lynching card, he was telling the Black community and liberal white folks, you know this story, I don’t even have to spell it out for you. Here it is. 

Cindi:  there, of course, would have been multiple ways to dismiss this high tech lynching metaphor and sort of disprove it as having validity, why do you think no one on the Senate Judiciary Committee was willing to point that out at the time?

Kimberlé: That, to me, [laughs] is the failure of the century. the Democrats didn’t feel an imperative to come into that arena  fully equipped to defend her. And Anita did not have a card to play. Why didn’t she have a card to play? Well, because the history of Black women’s sexual abuse had not been told, had not been lifted up, had been a source of shame, had been a source of denial, so that folks did not have a prism through which they could understand what Anita Hill was testifying to.

And so what that meant was that Black women were generally erased in the conversation. And where they did show up, they showed up as stereotypes, as people who should not be believed. Black women were seen as being sexually promiscuous and available. And there was a deep gendered association between being sexually active and and not being a truth teller. All of these things were part of the history of Black women’s vulnerability to not only various forms of sexual abuse, but then not being believed when they spoke about them. 

Salamishah: So when did you know you were in real trouble? That their strategy of erasing Black women’s experiences was going to work?

Kimberlé: There are some moments when I look back, and I think that was a turning point for me or there is a fork in the road and I’ll never be the same. So after Clarence Thomas had done the high tech lynching. We were looking for and expecting to see Black people come from everywhere. [laughs] This is outrageous. We’re not going to allow you to take our history and use it for your own personal gain.

So as we left the capital that evening, it was myself and several other folks who had gathered to support Anita. We saw what we thought was the prayer circle coming to support Anita, and we saw them from a distance. We could hear the singing. We knew that they were singing praise songs. We knew that they were praying, So uh we gravitated over towards them. And as I got closer, I was able to see that their T-shirts were proclaiming support for Clarence Thomas, belief in his being ordained to take this seat. 

And then even closer still, the denunciation of Anita Hill, the framing of her as a Jezebel, as a harlot, as all manner of negative stereotypes that are terms that are reserved for women who are seen as untrustworthy. And it was heartbreaking. It was terrifying, um. We turned on our heels and just got out of there as quickly as possible, you know, piled into a cab thinking that we were going to be rescued. And the cab driver had on the talk shows, the radio in which people were calling in from D.C., continuing the harangue against Anita Hill. And the driver himself was so animated that, you know, it almost felt like he was going to run us off the road. It was a diasporic response. [laughs]  He he was a an immigrant who was going on and on about why this Black woman is trying to take this Black man down, And it set the understanding that was an incorrect one, that sexual harassment was a white woman’s issue, that Black women were not sexually harassed, they were not concerned with this issue. That to me was the true jaw dropping moment.  

Kimberlé: It was pretty clear that we were in the fight of our lives. It was pretty clear that my own conception of what solidarity looked like as a Black community, was shattered. Later, it would become abundantly clear that a lot of people believed that what she said actually happened. Like Orlando Patterson, the much celebrated academic wrote a New York Times piece effectively saying that perhaps everything she said, he said, is true, but he was simply performing a downhome courting ritual that every Black woman recognized and knew. And so effectively, Anita, although she might have been telling the truth about what he said was performing as a white woman to show that she was being offended by it. It it was sort of the Black cultural defense to sexual harassment, which was like, [laughs] OK, so effectively [laughs] you’re saying what white people have been saying about Black women for centuries, that they can’t be sexually abused. They’re hardier than that. They are never offended or stressed by inappropriate behavior wherever it is, including in the workforce. At that point it was kind of over for me.

Cindi: Do you remember the moment of his confirmation? Where were you? Can you, can you tell us about that moment? As painful as I’m sure it was? 

Kimberlé: I remember it like it was yesterday. We were still in the capital trying to lobby some of the senators who basically owed their seats to Black voters. We ran into Jesse Jackson [laughs] and he took us from senator to senator to talk to them about why it was important that they vote against Clarence Thomas, important for the history of of civil rights. And they were telling us, how can we do that when the calls that we are getting from our own Black constituents are running six, seven to one to confirm, what purchase does this give me, to vote against him? And when it became clear that the last vote was going to the floor, my colleague and I left and sat on the steps of the Supreme Court and we said, this moment is going to change the rest of our lives. This is what the fight is going to look like from here on. This was the cost of having a non-intersectional understanding of of racism, a non-intersectional understanding of sexual abuse. This is precisely what those failures produced. 

Salamishah: So 30 years later, we’re in a moment wherein certain people, Bill Cosby, Justin Fairfax, R. Kelly, have still invoked this lynching metaphor. In terms of uh defending themselves against allegations of sexual assault. You know, what do you think the lasting implications of Thomas’s use of that line has been?

Kimberlé: I think the lasting significance of Clarence Thomas’s use of the high tech lynching and his subsequent confirmation to the Supreme Court provided a template that has been used again and again and again to defend, to deflect, to excuse, to redirect responsibility for abusing black women. We are at a period of history in which Black women and girls are still seen as responsible for so many of the social ills and not seen as legitimate targets of compassion and concern. So I think that the confirmation of Clarence Thomas on the heels of the false and artificial claim about lynching created a get out of jail free card for almost any way in which a Black woman could be abused by somebody in her own community. And the story is still to be written about what the longer legacy of that high tech lynching moment is. It’s time for that story, however, to be told through a contemporary lens to see what that moment has wrought. And I think we’re seeing it everywhere. 

Cindi: If you’re trying to understand the story of Clarence Thomas and how its changed over time, a good place to start is with Jane Mayer. She’s now the chief Washington correspondent at the New Yorker, but in 1991 she was a reporter at the Wall Street Journal . She had been covering DC for a while, and she had the sense that there was a lot more to know and to report about the Clarence Thomas hearings.

Jane Mayer: We thought we’ve got to stop the clock and really dig in deep and get to the bottom of this. 

Cindi: Eventually she and her colleague Jill Abramson co-wrote the book “Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas.” Mayer remembers being struck by the Republican attacks on Hill, both in the press and in the hearing room.

Jane Mayer: They were smearing her in every way they could possibly think of. They would call her both a prude and they would call her a nymphomaniac. They would describe her as someone who was wishing that Clarence Thomas had asked her out and then they would also describe her as a lesbian. I mean, they did everything they could to try to take her down, basically. While the specifics were contradictory, there was a single core of unanimity in what they were doing, which was they were trying to completely undermine her credibility in every possible way they could. And why were they doing that? Because they saw her as a threat to confirming Clarence Thomas. 

Salamishah: If Anita Hill was a threat on her own, more allegations of harassment against Thomas could be fatal to his confirmation.

Jane Mayer: So stopping other female witnesses from coming forward was really object number one of the Republicans who wanted to get Clarence Thomas confirmed. 

And there were a number of women we discovered who had been willing to come forward and they were ready to testify. And one of them was Angela Wright, who had handled communications for Clarence Thomas at the EEOC. And then she had left Washington and gone to become a reporter in North Carolina. And she had heard Clarence Thomas say many things that were similar to what Anita Hill had said when she was at the EEOC. 

Clarence Thomas had talked to her about the size of her breasts. Asked what size cups she wore in her bra, he had commented on how he really liked the hair on her legs. He’d pressed her to go out with him. He’d showed up at her house uninvited. These were very similar things to what Anita Hill had also described. 

So it seemed clear when I interviewed Angela Wright that she would have made a killer witness. And the fact that there was a second one probably would have tipped the public’s perception of Clarence Thomas. But Angela Wright never got her chance to testify. Instead, she waited for three days in a motel in Arlington, Virginia, with her lawyer, hoping to get called so that she could come forward and give her side of the story. She had been subpoenaed by the committee, and so she waited there for her her moment and it never came. The senators ran out the time and eventually just took a statement from her that was stuck in the record way too late, where most people didn’t see it.

Cindi: I know one of the other people that you write about in Strange Justice who could have testified was Rose Jourdain and I wonder if you can tell us a little bit about uh her and what her significance was.

Jane Mayer: Well, Rose Jourdain was an amazing woman and she was there to potentially corroborate Angela Wright. So, if people questioned Angela Wright’s credibility, Rose Jourdain who was an older woman who was a speechwriter at the EEOC and a friend of Angela Wright’s, was ready and willing to testify that she remembered all of these things as they had happened to Angela Wright, and that Angela Wright had confided in her, and that she shared the same opinion of Clarence Thomas in the way that he treated women at the EEOC. 

And Rose Jourdain was at the time of the hearings, um she’s an older woman who had some kind of problem that had her in the hospital. She was in a lot of pain, but she was so willing to testify that she was cutting her meds in quarters so that she could be lucid in case she was called and she was hoping to be called and she was willing to be rolled in in a wheelchair or rolled in on a gurney if that’s what it took to testify. But again, instead, the Senate committee just let the time run out. They let the senators just continue nattering on and joking with each other. And these women were never called. And so eventually they just took a statement from her as well, which again, was too late to really have any impact.

Cindi: If Senator Biden had made the decision to allow even just Angela Wright to testify, would Justice Thomas, in your opinion, have been confirmed? 

Jane Mayer: I think he probably would not have been confirmed. it’s hard to know for sure. The Republicans were trying to make Angela Wright out to be, as they called her, Angela Wrong. And they were going to try to really smear her character. But I interviewed her and I thought she would have been an incredibly compelling and convincing witness. 

Cindi: You explained clearly why republicans would be hostile to what Anita hill had to share at these hearings, but why do you think democrats didn’t do more to back up Anita Hill as a credible voice?

Jane Mayer: I think that the Democrats, saw this as a very uncomfortable situation. And in particular, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at that point was Joe Biden. And he was very politically ambitious back then. And as we’ve seen, it finally paid off. And he, even then, wanted to run for president. And people who worked for him told me later that the last thing he wanted to do was alienate Black voters. And this was seen as an incredibly high risk situation for Democrats too. and the white male senators of both parties on that committee were very uncomfortable looking like they might be taking down a Black man or stopping him from being confirmed to the court. So there was a kind of a racial dynamic. And just it was all seen as political risk. They didn’t want to take the risk.

Cindi: During the hearings, Clarence Thomas testified that he never spoke graphically about sex or pornography to his colleagues, but Mayer’s book with Jill Abramson documented persuasively that he, in fact, had done those things.

Jane Mayer: Did Clarence Thomas lie under oath? You know, I’m a reporter, and what I can tell you is there is a ton of evidence that he had a long history of speaking graphically about pornography to his friends and to anybody who was around him, just as Anita Hill had described, and he denied that under oath. So, you know, is there proof? There certainly is great probability that he lied under oath. And why was that not pursued then or since? I think that the reason is that the Republicans on the committee didn’t care. [laughs] They they didn’t care what was true. What they wanted to do was advance an agenda politically, which was to uh solidify the conservative majority on the court and push their political agenda forward. And looking back 30 years later, they absolutely succeeded at that. This is Clarence Thomas’ court that we are seeing today, he is the longest serving justice now. And the court is ruling in concert with his very, very conservative point of view. So that’s why they did it. They didn’t really care what was true or what wasn’t true. It was about power.

Cindi: What do you see as the long term repercussions of that? 

Jane Mayer: Looking at what happened with the Kavanaugh hearings what was learned was you can get away with it and you [laugh] can do it again. Um because we saw with Kavanaugh much of the same playbook. He doubled down on his anger in him and created sort of this response that made him look like he was a victim, which is exactly what Clarence Thomas did. 

I mean, Clarence Thomas talked about it being a high tech lynching, what could be more terrible than a Black man being lynched. And Kavanaugh made it look like he, too, was being, completely drawn and quartered unfairly. And that victim talk really got these guys confirmed. The idea that we have potentially two justices on the Supreme Court, two out of nine, who lied, it seems probable under oath, about whether they had sexually harassed women. That has tremendous ramifications. It undercuts the credibility of the court. It undercuts Americans’ trust in government. It’s, you know, toxic really in many ways. And you know, since then we’ve seen respect for Congress plummet and we’ve seen the court looked more and more as just another sort of political organization. And, this really has hurt, I think, these institutions. Clarence Thomas has been confirmed and Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed. But there’s no statute of limitations on investigating Supreme Court justices. And I think that this subject still should be opened up and looked at again.

Cindi: You talked before about the implications of Thomas’s confirmation on the court. But I wonder more broadly, when you look back at the hearings, how do you think about them in terms of what good came out of them?

Jane Mayer: I think tremendous good came out of the hearings. When the hearings were over and Clarence Thomas was confirmed, polls showed that the majority of voters in the country thought that Clarence Thomas was telling the truth and that Anita Hill was lying. Exactly one year later, the same poll showed that the country had changed its mind. They now believed Anita Hill. What emerged was a really strong tide of support from women under the age of 45. And they woke up and and this phenomenon of sexual harassment that most women, including myself, I have to say, were really ignorant about, I mean I barely knew that it even existed as something that you could complain about at that point. It was so rife that it just seemed like a way of life. But anyway, these women [laughs] all over the country got angry and they got organized. And there was just an absolutely, a wave of women getting elected to office because they watched these hearings and a number of women just jumped in and said, forget it, I’m running for office. And women came out and voted them in. So it was a huge moment in educating this country and in angering and mobilizing women. 

Salamishah: In our next episode, we’ll hear from one of those women, who was furious, and motivated – and then elected to the Senate.

But before we end this episode, we want to hear from a woman who helped bring Anita Hill’s story to life for a new audience.

Cindi: Kerry Washington is an award-winning actor and producer. She played Anita Hill in the HBO movie, Confirmation.

At the time of the hearings though, she was 14 years old, and living in the Bronx.

Kerry: Up until then I felt that my parents were always on the same page, for the most part, when it came to politics.

I knew that they were Democrats and they just seemed to be on the same side of the issues, the same side of morality and justice. And when the Clarence Thomas hearings happened, it was my first time experiencing my own intersectionality. Because I saw the split. I saw that my father was experiencing one dynamic as a Black man, who had come up against his own kind of struggles with the limitations of his blackness in the workplace. And I saw my mother’s really intense reactions to being a woman in the workplace and understanding the limitations and the injustices that she had faced. And so I got like, oh, there’s there’s a gender dynamic at play here. And it’s not unrelated to race. Um, my dad always makes me add that now in hindsight, he believes Anita, [LAUGHS] he supports Anita. He was living in that historical moment through the lens that he had up until that time, but he sees it very differently today.

Salamishah: And she, of course, was seeing it through her own lens.

Kerry: You know, even at 14 years old, I had had enough experience of what it means to walk through the world in a female body and feel afraid, feel intimidated, have to navigate the misuse of power, I understood enough about gender dynamics to lean toward my mother’s interpretation and understanding of the moment. I just remember thinking, like, why would she put herself through this if it wasn’t true? 

Salamishah: Decades later, when she was preparing for the movie, Washington spent hours watching tapes of the hearings. She listened to them so many times that her husband could recite them verbatim. There was one line that she kept coming back to in her mind.

Kerry: One of the most important moments for me is when she says, I know it’s possible because it happened to me, that moment is the most honest moment. You could see this woman who was very controlled, very prepared, terrified, but really had her game face on and her armor buckled up and to watch the fatigue set in, by the time she gets to that line of ‘it happened to me,’ she’s done. She’s spent. It’s like I have nothing else to give you but my absolute truth. 

Salamishah: Even so, when Washington was making “Confirmation,” it was important to her to portray Thomas with depth and complexity. 

Kerry: I didn’t want to make Clarence Thomas this like, mustache-twirling bad guy. He wasn’t that guy. I believe that he thought and still thinks that he’s right, that he was justified in wanting and deserving the amount of power that he was seeking. So it was really important to me that the character of Clarence Thomas was human, that he wasn’t a villainous, bad guy that you felt for him. But the film was not was not meant to be his story. It was much more her story. 

Cindi: And as she helped tell Anita Hill’s story, Kerry Washington says there were some things she wanted to set straight.

Kerry: In the court of public opinion, I remember even when we were in prep for making the film, people would say to me, oh, yeah, she lost. Right? I was like, lost what? [laughs] Like, this was not a case. It was a hearing. And there was such misunderstanding and that she was perceived as a loser when she had inspired a generation of women leaders that were able to carry forward a feminist agenda that protected women in the workplace, she was able to ignite a movement she was able to um, inspire and lead and transform culture. And so it was important to me to contextualize all that history. And there had been so much narrative that had positioned Clarence Thomas as the rightful winner of his seat on the court. And I just thought, we have to do something about that.

Salamishah: In our next episode, the aftermath. Three women whose lives were changed by watching Anita Hill’s testimony.

For some people, Anita Hill was the spark that lit their fire. For others, the attacks on her felt like a warning.

Salamishah: I’m Salamishah Tillet.

Cindi: And I’m Cindi Leive.

Salamishah: Because of Anita is a production of Pineapple Street Studios and The Meteor.

Cindi: Our senior producer is Kat Aaron and our managing producer is Agerenesh [Ah-gah–RAY-nesh]Ashagre, [Ah–SHA-grey].

Salamishah: This show was also produced by Justine Daum [DOWM like down]. Our associate producers are Janelle Anderson, and Xandra [Zandra] Ellin.

Cindi: Our editor is Leila [LEE-luh] Day.

Salamishah: Our project lead for The Meteor is Rebecca Halperin.

Cindi: Fact-checking by Ivette [E-vette] Manners.

Salamishah: Our engineers are Davy Sumner and Raj [RAHGE] Makhija [mah-KEY-juh], and Hannis Brown.

Cindi: Special thanks to Joel Lovell and Maddy Sprung-Keyser [Sprung-KEYE-zur] at Pineapple Street.

Salamishah: This episode features original compositions by Davy Sumner, Raj Makhija [MAH-key-juh], and Hannis Brown.

Cindi: Additional music from Blue Dot Sessions.

Salamishah: Our show art is by Pentagram and our additional art is by Pixelittle.

Cindi: Our executive producers at the Meteor are us, Salamishah Tillet and Cindi Leive. Our C-O-O at the Meteor is Kara Kearns. And our executive producers at Pineapple Street are Max Linsky and Jenna Weiss Berman.

Salamishah: Thank you to Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, Jane Mayer and Kerry Washington for joining us for this episode.



Because of Anita: Coming Soon

Coming Soon: Because of Anita

Please note: This transcript has been automatically generated.

Professor Anita Hill’s Testimony I have no personal vendetta against Clarence Thomas.

Dr. Salamishah Tillet That’s Professor Anita Hill testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October, 1991.

Professor Anita Hill’s Testimony It would have been more comfortable to remain silent. I felt that I had to tell the truth.

Cindi Leive And the truth, Anita Hill explained, was that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her years earlier when he was her boss. Professor Hill described his behavior in detail to an all white, all male judiciary committee. After three days of debate, they confirmed the nomination. Nearly 30 years later, in 2018, Brett Kavanaugh was nominated to the Supreme Court.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s Testimony Brett’s assault on me drastically altered my life for a very long time. 

Cindi Leive As Dr. Christine Blasey Ford described Kavanaugh’s attack on her in high school, it was impossible not to think of Anita Hill. 

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s Testimony Apart from the assault itself, these past couple of weeks have been the hardest of my life. I’ve had to relive this trauma in front of the world, and I’ve seen my life picked apart. 

Dr. Salamishah Tillet Professor Anita Hill and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford have spent some time together but have never had a public conversation… until now. 

Professor Anita Hill I have this very protective instinct. And when we met, one of my concerns was that you were going to be okay. And I did leave feeling assured that you were going to be able to handle what was going on in your life; you have this strong core that would get you through it. 

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford Yes, I remember you saying that I would have a much better perspective in five years, and in 25 years, and you were right. 

Dr. Salamishah Tillet They talk about whether the senators and the general public believe survivors. 

Professor Anita Hill I think they do believe. I think they’re afraid of believing, so they may even say they don’t believe, but I think they’re just not willing to do anything about it. 

Cindi Leive They talk about grief and anger. 

Professor Anita Hill People were saying to me, you know, “I no longer have any confidence in our courts.”

Dr. Salamishah Tillet They discussed the future. 

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford When there is someone else in this position–and there will be–maybe they will also see that it is their civic duty to speak up.

Cindi Leive I’m Cindi Leive, I’m a journalist and editor. 

Dr. Salamishah Tillet I’m Salamishah Tillet, and I’m a scholar and activist. 

Cindi Leive And this conversation is part of our new podcast “Because of Anita,” a four-part series about Anita Hill and the legacy of her testimony. It’s about everything that’s changed and everything that hasn’t. 

Dr. Salamishah Tillet We’ll talk to lots of people: politicians, artists, organizers, and academics, all of whom have been shaped by those hearings 30 years ago. Like Tarana Burke, founder of the ‘me too.’ Movement. 

Tarana Burke Because of Anita, I know what courage looks like. 

Cindi Leive Drew Dixon, a record producer and writer. 

Drew Dixon I really have carried Anita Hill with me since those hearings, especially because I went on in my own career to experience sexual harassment twice. And I carried her with me when I decided to come forward.

Dr. Salamishah Tillet And actor and director Kerry Washington, who played Professor Hill in a film about the hearings.

Kerry Washington One of the most important moments for me is when she says, “I know it’s possible because it happened to me.” It’s like, I have nothing else to give you but my absolute truth.

Cindi Leive “Because of Anita” is a production of Pineapple Street Studios and The Meteor. You can subscribe now wherever you get your podcasts.

Dr. Salamishah Tillet Coming October 4th.