‘Anita’ Speaks Truth to Power

Posted: May 19, 2014 in Shorts
By Esther Iverem–SeeingBlack.com Editor and Film Critic
Apr 26, 2014, 20:22

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It could be that the 1991 hearing that would ultimately confirm Clarence Thomas to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court will go down in history as a major milestone on the path to the U.S. becoming a somewhat Orwellian state— where lies become truth and truth becomes a lie.

That hearing in October 1991 is the setting for the documentary “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power.” The movie tells the story of Anita Hill, the young, cute law professor who had worked with Clarence Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. At the hearing, Hill said under oath that Thomas sexually harassed her and enjoyed discussing pornography, lewd sex acts and badgering her to date him.

Even if this movie only recounted the sordid hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, it would be filled with more than enough drama. Some of us might remember—or can never forgot—in the ornate hearing room on Capital Hill, the phrases “public hair,” “penis size” and “ the name of the porn star long-dong silver being uttered into the public record.

In this clip: Anita Hill begins her testimony before the committee during a hearing that would last nine hours:

That was a clip from “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power” and that was the voice of Anita Hill testifying at confirmation hearing for Clarence Thomas to be seated on the U.S. Supreme Court.

But the movie goes further than the spectacle of the hearings to allow us the consider the long-lasting impact of those days in October.

Number one, Hill brought the subject of sexual harassment to the big stage, a stage that was obviously too big to be handled by the all white, male committee, some of whom, including Senator Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania, made the nine-hour session more about vilifying Anita Hill rather than about vetting Clarence Thomas. Joe Biden, the Senator from Delaware, served as chair of the committee and is blamed for not calling other subpoenaed women who had also been harassed by Thomas to testify.

The second spectacle was watching the Big Lie take on a racial veneer: Clarence Thomas, who embodies a visceral self-loathing and a denial of the legacy of American racism powerfully employed that same history to claim that he was the victim of a “high-tech lynching “

The Clarence Thomas hearing was not the first time that partisan politics was allowed to trump truth and decency but it felt like a watershed moment. If anything, it was a high-tech lynching of Anita Hill. Her integrity was questioned, as if she had anything to gain and instead everything to lose by telling the world what SHE had experienced while working with Clarence Thomas.

Finally, for me, as this film by Frieda Mock allows us to witness the aftermath, as Hill has fended off threats to her career, her family and her life, while fully using her voice as an advocate for women’s rights.
I think “Anita” is remarkable for telling that inner story of the youngest of 13 children, the small town high school valedictorian with the big glasses, that is never told on the evening news.

Here she is speaking in a scene from the movie, where she is routinely escorted by armed body guards when she tries to return to her life as a law professor at the University of Oklahoma.

That was a clip from the movie “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power” and that was the voice of Anita Hill, who testified about being sexually harassed by Clarence Thomas when she worked for him as a young attorney.

The ways that Anita Hill has been made to suffer and be punished for speaking her truth power— is the long-lasting and, again, Orwellian, impact of this movie.

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