Anita Hill Opens Up About Today’s Racial Injustices

In an interview with The Root, the legal scholar makes an important distinction between equality and civil rights.

By Jorge Rivas Oct 19, 2011

It’s been twenty years since Anita Hill testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee and described years of sexual harassment from then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Our own Akiba Solomon recently dug into the lasting effects of that testimony. But on Monday, The Root published an interview with Hill in which the legal scholar, who’s now a professor at Brandeis University, describes her ordeal and examines the country’s current state of affairs.

Hill sat down with Cynthia Gordy at The Root to talk about little known facts from the Senate Judiciary hearing, like then-Senator Joe Biden’s refusal to call any other female witnesses who were ready to corroborate her story.

"When I found out that those witnesses were not going to be called, I was, quite frankly, shocked," says Hill of the witnesses, which included Angela Wright, a former Thomas subordinate with similar sexual harassment claims. "One woman had even gotten out of her hospital bed to make herself available to testify."

Below is a snippet from the interview on The Root where Hill talks about some of the current social issues the country is facing:

On the difference between equality and civil rights:

"Where we live, in many cases, defines our access to opportunity," says Hill, explaining that someone’s ZIP code determines his or her children’s education, access to healthy food and jobs and who represents them in government. "This is about how people live daily. So we need to bring equality though another mechanism, as opposed to simply saying, ‘Well, you can always go to court and enforce your civil rights.’ "

On Obama:

Hill proposes revitalizing neighborhoods with an eye for not just safety and beautification but also the fulfillment of needs like quality transportation and financial services over payday lenders. She also suggests that President Obama has an opportunity to be a champion for the displaced, but his housing policies — focused on loan modification and mortgage refinancing — fall short.

On why stabilizing the housing market is not enough:

"I’m absolutely in favor of helping people stay in their homes, but I’m asking us to think beyond that," she says. "Remember, there was a stable housing market before the crisis occurred, and still people were vulnerable to shady lending practices and, even worse, predatory lending practices. So getting people back in their homes and stabilizing the housing market is not enough."