Clarence Thomas’ wife needs a lesson in manners. Instead of asking Anita Hill to apologize for speaking out about sexual harassment during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings 20 years ago, Mrs. Thomas should be writing Professor Hill a thank-you letter.
That’s what we do when someone gives us a gift. Anita Hill gave all of us a gift when she risked her career and reputation to make sexual harassment front page news.
Thank you notes have been heading the way of the engraved invitation for awhile now. I’m more likely to shoot someone a friendly e-mail than jot out a written card. I’ve passed my sloppy manners on to my kids. They are effusive with praise in the moment, but I’ve never had the patience or organizational skills to sit down with them and write out thank you cards after birthday parties. Even though I know I should.
It’s never too late to say Thank You, though, just like it’s never to late to say you’re sorry. While Mrs. Thomas (hopefully) figures out how to word the apology she clearly owes Professor Hill, she might also consider thanking her.
Here’s a nice example of the letters we might all want to write to Dr. Hill now, written by a friend of mine:
Dear Professor Hill,
Reading the NYT piece about Virginia Thomas’s recent phone call
reminded me of something I wish I’d done sooner, which is to deeply
thank you for your testimony during Clarence Thomas’s confirmation
At the time, I was a sophomore in high school, and the notion of
sexual harassment was largely theoretical to me, but soon after, I
experienced it first-hand, and your courage and conviction gave me the
validation that I needed to know that my experience was not only one
that was shared by many women, but was worth objecting to and working
to stop. I wished then that I could thank you for taking that
difficult path and thereby making mine easier, and I’m sorry I’ve
waited so long to finally do so.
Your efforts changed my life for the better, and I thank you for it.
I’m a few years younger: Anita Hill’s testimony was vaguely on my radar as a 12-year-old kid, but I wasn’t quite following political news yet.
By the time sexual harassment mattered to me personally, I’d had the privilege of growing up in a world where everyone knew the term. It was still hard to tell my colleagues at my first job to back off when they teased me with sexual jokes, but it was possible. I knew and they knew that HR would have my back on this one. My heartfelt thanks go out to Anita Hill for that as well.
Photo: Ralph & Jenny
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