Like many Americans, I was riveted to the television screen for three days back in October 1991 as then, 35 year law professor Anita Hill sat in front of the United States Senate Judicial Committee and described story after story, incident after incident of sexual harassment by aspiring Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. There was one scene in particular when her parents and siblings entered the room and sat behind her – a sign of love, support, and encouragement. I could sense their pride and who wouldn’t be? I have tried to imagine over the years what it must have taken for her to let her voice be known; the countless hours of pain and disappointment as well as preparation for the task at hand.
We know too well how the story ended. People had their opinions – one person’s word against the other. Organizations such as the NAACP, National Bar Association, Urban League, and National Organization for Women rendered opposition. Thomas was confirmed: a Supreme Court justice for life.
Needless to say, these haunting memories have been on the forefront of my mind these past three weeks as woman after woman has come forth to report sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein and others. While such things are as old as time, they continue to sicken me to my core and for each incident reported, I would be willing to bet that there are hundreds more (from men and women) who live in the desolate valley of silence every day – too vulnerable, too intimidated, and too afraid to say a word. I have personally heard more stories than I can ever recount. And let’s be clear, abuse of power of any sort is just plain wrong and totally inexcusable.
I commend those who continue to find courage to speak out and speak up to the extent possible. It’s not easy for sure, but doing so is often the very best weapon. May we too find our voice to speak and also to listen to those who need us most.
Grace and peace,