Poised under Pressure: The Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson
Accomplished, experienced, and poised, Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson made history in February as the first Black woman to be nominated to hold a seat on the United States Supreme Court. On April 7th history was made again with the Senate’s confirmation of her nomination for a lifelong U.S. Supreme Court Justice appointment.
As a Black, female attorney I am so proud to see a reflection of myself and my community taking hold of such an impactful seat. I am saddened it has taken hundreds of years to do so, but watched proudly this week as we broke yet another barrier.
For over a century the legal system has been biased against, and not reflective of Black and Brown communities, with slow progress made over the last several decades. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will be the only former public defender on the Court, the first since the Honorable Thurgood Marshall to serve with any criminal defense experience, and with experience serving on the U.S. Sentencing Committee. This crucial expertise is currently lacking on the Court and its fair and unbiased enforcement is one of the most impactful in the lives of Black and Brown people.
As an equity, justice, and social impact practitioner I work daily to disrupt and address existing disparities, and fully acknowledge the need for disruption in the historical makeup of the Court as well. Legal changes and a diversity of backgrounds, views, and life experiences are necessary on every court, chiefly the Supreme Court, to ensure we protect, affirm, and uplift ALL voices, not just those that have historically dictated the recorded versions of our nation’s history.
As I watched the hearings and listened to the lines of questioning and comments made during confirmation discussions, I was yet again disgusted by the lack of respect and inappropriate behavior of several committee members and witnesses. The hypocrisy, disrespect, and inability to focus on viable issues was a prototypical experience of highly qualified Black women in the workplace, and caused me to turn off a majority of the sessions and pray.
While I agree that the examination of nominees is required, it should be done with integrity, respect, and limitations that ensure the purpose of the hearing is met and not used to further political agendas – ironically, very similar to what the Committee asks Justices to uphold once appointed to a life term on the bench.
Brief moments of relief were had when Senator Cory Booker questioned and affirmed Judge Brown Jackson. His ability to create moments of camaraderie, support, and community amid a sea of offense, verbal battery, and disrespect was beautiful to watch.
Each comment and recall of intimate exchanges brought to the forefront the sheer joy, excitement, and power of this historical moment. Senator Booker’s words to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, “You have earned this spot. You are worthy. You are a great American.” were encouragement for every Black woman that has endured being interrupted, misconstrued, and berated in their work environment. This is the beauty of not being the only one in the room.
To see laughter break through, rebellious tears of freedom, tangible relief, and joy shine through the frustration, illuminated again the beauty, grace, and grit of Black women in America.
I so look forward to the day when these types of paragraphs, essays, and op-eds are no longer needed. When questions about our qualifications are no longer raised when evidence shows we have exceeded the established bar set by our counterparts. Where unfounded claims and disrespectful comments are no longer lodged against us. Where affirmations such as those uttered by Senator Alex Padilla, “You are ready to blaze this trail.”, are heard more often than not. Until that time, we will continue to serve, lead, and live by an excellent, elegant example.
But today we celebrate making history. Today we celebrate the first Black Woman Supreme Court confirmation. Today we celebrate receiving this historical news from another history-making, Black, female attorney and the first Black and South Asian Woman Vice President – Kamala Harris.
To my sister-in-the-law, thank you for the ways you’ve made for Black, female attorneys, the example you set again these last few weeks of patience and grace under pressure, and for the excellence and integrity you continue to display.
We salute you. We cheer you on from our screens, Supreme Court steps, and desks, celebrating all you have accomplished. We are proud of you and we celebrate you without question. They will not steal this moment – or our joy.
Relish this moment. Shine. Serve. Persevere.
Dr. Lorin R. Carter is Founder & Chief Strategist of Carter Creative Enterprises, LLC Companies, including C-Suite Consulting and Dr. Lorin R. Carter, LLC, a licensed Attorney, Engineer, and Urban Planning & Public Policy PhD, and a Dallas Public Voices Fellow through The OpEd Project.
Dr. Lorin Carter I am as equally proud of you as you took time to salute another sister. It takes a strong confident Black woman to congratulate another of her race to not be selfish but selfless.