Anita Hill, a professor of social policy, law, and women’s studies at Brandeis University, urged Americans to closely examine social inequality and work to increase access to the “American Dream” in a lecture Thursday at the Radcliffe Institute.
“Ultimately, as we deal with income inequality in the country, more and more people are locked out,” said Hill.
Hill—who rose to public prominence in 1991 when she accused Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment as he was being vetted for the Supreme Court—recently published “Reimagining Inequality,” a book using the American home as a lens to examine gender and racial inequality in the United States.
“Equality has to be a lived experience, and nothing speaks to that more than the place we call home,” she said.
Hill discussed the evolution of the home over the course of American history, focusing on how the ideal of the suburban dream home has become increasingly exclusionary.
The contemporary conception of the ideal home is “now out of reach of most Americans,” Hill said.
Hill highlighted how structural inequality manifests in housing, using the recent subprime mortgage crisis as an example. She said that “lingering racism and discrimination” caused African-Americans and women to be disproportionately impacted by the downturn.
Hill said that when researching her book, she focused on the conditions of inequality rather than progress toward equality, a decision which gave her a new “perspective on systemic discrimination.”
In the past, Hill has received much attention for the accusations she levied against Thomas during his confirmation hearings, but she said from the get-go that her lecture would “not [be] a talk about the hearings.”
Nevertheless, the first question from the audience was about the high-profile case, which ultimately cleared Thomas of the sexual harassment charges. A woman in attendance stood up and asked Hill if she would accept a position on the Supreme Court.
“Wouldn’t that be awkward?” Hill responded, a comment which earned laughter from the audience. “I really do like the things I’m doing in my life right now,” she said.
At the end of her speech, Hill encouraged audience members to be watchful for opportunities to extend the “American Dream” to all Americans.
“I was really provoked by the notion of needing to bring equality to individuals,” said Reginald A. Wilson, an attendee, who said that Hill was “asking us to do something radical.”