When the United States Supreme Court was established over 230 years ago, only white men could sit on the court and uphold the Constitution and ideals of this great nation.
So, you can only imagine my excitement when months ago, I watched a Black woman, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, confirmed to take her place at a seat on the same court. And you can only imagine how excited I am to now call her Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
Our country needs leaders like Justice Brown Jackson – now more than ever. The rights of many are at stake, and we have leaders in power who are working to drown out our voices.
This is something I witness far too often – and I witnessed it months ago as I watched Justice Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings. I was agitated to watch her experience so many moments of subjugation: moments I, too, have experienced because I am a Black woman.
Committee members often ignored the compelling and intelligent opening and responses Justice Brown Jackson provided during the hearing. No matter how perfectly stated her words, they were never enough.
As an advocate, I share my family’s experience to appeal to those with policy-making power in hopes that they hear and answer the call of changes I want to see made. But if my words fall on neglectful ears, my voice, like Justice Brown Jackson’s, is not enough.
I was triggered by the irrelevant and inappropriate questions elected officials like Senator Cruz and Senator Graham asked to belittle Justice Brown Jackson’s professional experience.
Why was it so triggering to me? Because despite 17 years of experience in the field of law, I have encountered similar questions.
Are you in the wrong room? No, I’m exactly where I need to be.
Are you a part of the finance team? No, but if you find them you can let them know who to bill.
And my favorite: “Are you looking for representation?” No, I’m here to represent.
The self-control Justice Brown Jackson exhibited during the hearings is a skill Black women master so we aren’t subjected to the “angry Black woman” trope. Because when you are, the battle for acceptance becomes even harder – especially for the other Black women fighting alongside you.
Nevertheless, Justice Brown Jackson and women like her affirm that I, too, can use my pride in my identity as a Black woman to persevere.
I’m energized to be a part of a league of Black female advocates whose work in policy have led to many historic firsts, such as the Voting Rights Act in 1965 a Democrat-controlled House, Senate, and White House in 2021, and Justice Brown Jackson’s confirmation today in 2022.
I’m proud of the work Justice Brown Jackson has accomplished thus far. Though our field does not always celebrate our accomplishments, my fellow Black sisters lift each other up to provide the praise we deserve.
I’m affirmed as a Black female naturalist whose hair has been styled in sisterlocks for almost two years. Despite living in a world that idolizes Eurocentric features and beauty standards, Justice Brown Jackson proudly showed up to her confirmation with her hair styled in sisterlocks – proving that Black women can dress, wear, and arrive to the occasion with any style or attire and get the work done, no matter the case.
Finally, I’m affirmed as a Black mother. No matter the role or the work, I do it all for my daughter. I recognize the beaming smile Leila Jackson gave her mother because it’s the same smile my daughter gives me after a long day of work. It’s the smile that confirms that all the lessons I’m teaching her – that she should always speak up even when she’s afraid, that the sky’s the limit for her future, and that her light in this world should never be dimmed.
And while Justice Brown Jackson may be the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court, as long as there are Black women like me and Black girls like my daughter around, she surely won’t be the last.
By Monique Cole, Organizing Captain and Ward 6 PLE Board member