It has never been seriously suggested that being Black in America was, is or will be easy. It has never been seriously suggested that being a Black woman in America was, is or will be easy. And therefore it cannot be a surprise that the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, one of the most highly qualified nominees in recent history, will be facing serious opposition in the U.S. Senate.
Most of the opposition will, of course, come from the Republicans. But it should be clear that this opposition reflects a certain train of thought, a viral strain really, that exists in America.
This viral strain presupposes the inferiority of Black Americans. When a Black man or woman achieves at a high level that person is seen as being exceptional, out of the ordinary and certainly not representative of the overall talent pool in the Black community. Because, after all, it is not useful, so the thinking goes, to expect exceptional achievement from any Black man, woman or child.
Further, even when a Black woman or Black man does achieve, very often there is an unspoken question mark. Is this person the beneficiary of affirmative action or a lower bar for achievement forgetting the fact that the legacy admissions to elite colleges has been the inheritance of white girls and boys for centuries.
It seems that there is always a reason why the qualifications of a Black woman or a Black man must be questioned – or praised as being exceptional from the perspective of race rather than being exceptional from the perspective of humanity.
As we come to the matter of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, we see that the American racist myopia is still very much with us. The fact that she graduated from Harvard University and Harvard Law School should make her credentials bullet proof. Instead they represent a bullseye for those who would question her credentials by use of the false lens of affirmative action. The fact that she graduated with honors seems to make no difference to the likes of Ted Cruz and John Kennedy and never will.
That fact never will make a difference because the basic proposition of white supremacy and black inferiority is omnipresent as a virus in the American intellectual bloodstream – and there seems to be no way to immunize the vast portion of this of the American bloodstream. And the virus makes itself known in obvious ways as seen in cases like those involving George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
Less obvious, but arguably more virulent are the way the virus presents itself in corporate America that cannot find even five (5) Black women or Black men to be CEO’s in the Fortune 500, and in the American electorate that can only find three (3) Black people out of one hundred to serve in the United States Senate as you are reading these words.
Now we will watch the members of the United States Senate try to denigrate the qualifications and abilities and experience and expertise of Ketanji Brown Jackson while claiming that they are being fair. It is a baptism of fire that Judge Jackson has experienced before and the good news is that in this case – it is not a fair fight.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will prevail.
8 thoughts on “In the Matter of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson”
The viral racism is more and more apparent with each column you write, so keep the spotlight shining on it! As a Harvard lawyer and a woman, I have certainly struggled with this biopic underestimation. As a Jewish woman, I hear the sub-species assumptions abound and magnify that virus even more. I fear for the effects on my two baby grandsons, who are both black and Jewish. Please keep the spotlight on i I t. Keep calling it out!
Great column! It needs to be said. Outstanding writing as always.
We faced similar attacks on Dartmouth College campus Corporate America and society in general during the era of Affirmative Action in the late 1960s / early 1970s. Some 50 years later we still hear these white supremacy comments. Some things never change.
Let’s not forget that she graduated, magna cum laude, from Harvard undergrad, cum laude, from HLS, and was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Anyone opposing her credentials and/or calling for her to “show her papers,” is a pure bigot. “Affirmative Action” should not be mentioned in the same breath with her name.
Let’s not forget that she graduated, magna cum laude, from Harvard undergrad, cum laude, from Harvard Law School, and was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Anyone questioning her credentials or asking her to “show her papers” is an outright bigot. “Affirmative Action” should never be mentioned in the same breath with her name.
So it has been. So it will be for the foreseeable future. The denigration of Black achievement is an inextricable facet of the white-supremacist construct. Black achievement—whether it be “ordinary” or “extraordinary” — is profoundly threatening to those who cling, whether overtly or subconsciously, to white-supremacist precepts. So, naturally, they make these demands —“show me your passbook, kaffir!”—to hide their shock at discovering yet again there are Black people who are not to equal to but superior to them.
Despite all the storms she was voted in the 116th justice today.