Hill v. Thomas and Sanders v. Thomas: How much has really changed?

By Megan Izen Oct 02, 2007

Then | Now Anita Hill | Anucha Brown Sanders “Political pawn” | “Embittered ex-employee” “Aggressive, angry, unruly behind closed doors”t | “Aggressive, angry, unruly behind closed doors” Clarence Thomas | Isiah Thomas 1991 Supreme Cour | 2007 Basketball Court Black women don’t support Hilltt | Black women support Sanders Losst | Victory It’s bittersweet irony that the most publicized and racialized sexual harassment cases in two decades are now competing for top headlines. Anita Hill appeared on Good Morning America this morning to defend herself once more against Clarence Thomas’s attacks in his newly published memoir where he calls her his ‘most traitorous adversary.’ Hours later, a jury handed down a guilty verdict to New York Knicks head coach Isiah Thomas for sexually harassing former colleague Anucha Brown Sanders. So what’s changed and what hasn’t? These are loaded discussions that bring to mind the hypersexualization, vilification and harassment of women of color in the workplace and beyond. All of which have deeply rooted historical contexts that won’t fit neatly into a blog post. A 2003 study revealed that women of color are more vulnerable to sexual harassment on the job than white women. What we can claim now that we couldn’t in 1991 is victory—a precedent that makes harassing women of color in the workplace intolerable. That said, what resonates between both cases and touches the aforementioned issues is the persistent stereotypes of men and women of color in the media. In 1991, we watched in horror as Hill’s character, credibility and motives were picked apart day by day. Sixteen years later, the mainstream media was still stuck on the same tired story with Sanders. But somehow this jury was able to see past the counter-accusations heaped on Sanders and do the right thing. Maybe all these years have made a difference. At least we know that sometimes, if we fight, we can actually win.