Anita Hill, professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis University’s School of Social Policy and Management, addressed issues of race, gender and the Supreme Court on the night of Nov. 2 in the Humanities Instructional Building as this year’s keynote speaker for the UC Irvine Rainbow Festival. Titled ‘Race, Gender and the Supreme Court,’ Hill’s address discussed modern-day political questions and judicial realities.
Sponsored by the Cross-Cultural Center, the event’s theme of ‘Where Are We Now?’ signified the festival’s examination of race, gender and class over the past 40 years. Hill shared her views on the current relationship between race, gender and the law. She used historical connections, such as individual Supreme Court cases, to validate her arguments concerning the Supreme Court and civil rights.
The event opened with a moment of silence to honor the life of Rosa Parks, followed by a brief address from Anna Gonzalez, director of the Cross-Cultural Center, and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Manuel Gomez. Hill issued a short talk and allowed a general Q-and-A session after her speech.
‘I really don’t think there could be a better time for Anita Hill to join us and speak about race, gender and the Supreme Court,’ Gomez said in his address. ‘The future of our country and society are fervently being considered as we speak.’
Hill branded the Supreme Court nomination process as a ‘rapidly moving picture that we cannot bring into focus,’ and raised questions accordingly. She offered recent political events, such as President Bush’s appointment of John Roberts, Harriet Miers’ withdrawal and Samuel Alito’s nomination, as proof that presidents nominate judges who will further their political agenda.
She incorporated Bush’s expectation that his nominees ‘will strictly apply the constitution and laws, [and] not legislate from the bench,’ and analyzed it in context of recent Supreme Court nomination events. Hill pointed out flaws in Bush’s approach and said that nominees need to possess philosophy, not just credentials.
‘We have to look at philosophy,’ Hill said. ‘The president himself is looking at philosophy. We cannot just stamp our approval on everything the president does. We need to be more proactive.’
Throughout her speech, Hill raised a series of questions concerning the Supreme Court nomination process and sought to answer them in the context of race and gender.
According to Hill, the appointment process is not over until the people voice their opinions about the appointees.
‘We believe very strongly in our Constitution,’ Hill said. ‘We believe in our country’s promise of a democracy. So we keep on, even when we are discouraged and we really do believe that we will prevail.’
A Yale Law School graduate and Fletcher Fellowship recipient, Hill is most known for her testimony concerning sexual harassment at the Senate confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in October 1991. Hill is the author of ‘Speaking Truth to Power’ and co-editor of ‘Race, Gender and Power in America: The Legacy of Hill-Thomas Hearings.’
‘The event was a great opportunity to meet a modern-day historical figure,’ said Michael Shaneman, a fifth-year international studies major. ‘She was very knowledgeable and struck a good balance between details and conciseness. She spoke about walking on, which originally came up while talking about the civil rights movement, and generalized that message into a personal lesson: when faced with adversity, persevere.’
Sara Aloteibi, a first-year undecided/undeclared major, also found inspiration in Hill’s speech.
‘The conference was very inspiring,’ Aloteibi said. ‘She seems very dedicated to the whole idea of gender and race. She speaks out for those who are often not heard.’