Breaking Silence

There are many myths that surround the black female body.  It may be motherly and broad, unknowing of limits and earthly.  This body is safe, non-threatening, and lacking of sexuality. This is the Mammy, the black body that has nursed white children from its breast, and given parts of itself, piece by piece, until there is nothing left.  When the black female body does not allow the role of the Mammy to be placed upon it, or when it must serve other purposes of justification, it finds itself demonized as the instigator of violences enacted upon it. In such a formulation, the black female body then becomes a black woman, a woman whose being is sexually aggressive in ways that require penetration.  This myth of black female promiscuity, in ways that make it impossible for there to exist sexual violence against black women, is one that remains relevant. Its relevance is prominent once again as the Kavanaugh confirmation brings reminders of Anita Hill and the ways that race and gender intersect to create unique oppressive states that encourage silence from black women, especially against their black assaulters.  

In 1991, Anita Hill came forward with sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas, then a Supreme Court nominee (Elving 2017).  Hill, a black female law professor, underwent a lengthy hearing in which she detailed the harassment she had faced from Clarence Thomas. Hill became a national household name, and opinions upon her credibility and claims saturated the media.  Yet, she was not merely a woman, she was a black woman and Clarence Thomas was a black man. By coming forward, she was accused of trying to “bring a successful black man down,” or of “working with a feminist agenda, and against blackness”. Hill exemplified how silencing of victims worked through multiple intersections of oppression; placing black women as the enemy of black men, and the black community, when they attempted to escape silence.  Still, she spoke. While Clarence Thomas did become a Supreme Court judge , Anita Hill opened a new realization that you could speak out against your accuser as a black woman, and that someone would hear.  

If you, or someone you know, has experienced sexual violence you can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 800.656.HOPE (4673)


Elving, Ron. "A Refresher On Anita Hill And Clarence Thomas." NPR. December 10, 2017.

     Accessed October 07, 2018.

Kerstan Nealy