It was inspiring to listen to a recap of some of the highlights from the hearing for Supreme Court Nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, this evening. I heard her telling the story of being a first-year student at Harvard, who had come from very humble beginnings with no real preparation for being in that environment except a stellar intellect and a spirit of determination. She shared her concerns about being able to survive there amidst the dissonance that was being created for her. One day while walking, she encountered an African American woman, who she imagined picked up on her sense of lostness as she passed by her, she said, “Persevere.” Those words stayed with her, and she advises young people who seek counsel from her to do the same thing. This is a good word for all of us to ponder.
Later, the program re-played Senator Cory Booker’s impassioned speech paying tribute to Judge Jackson, and the late Judge Constance Baker Motley, the first black woman to argue before the Supreme Court, to be appointed a federal judge and to be elected to the New York state senate. Judge Jackson’s story and Senator Booker’s tribute were the only reasons to listen to most of what happened today in the hearing room.
A great amount of what happened in the Judiciary Committee hearing was a large amount of disrespectful posturing by some white men who appeared to be grown-ups but sounded and behaved more like teenage boys trying to see which one of them could win the “bad boy contest.” It is a bit difficult to understand what would make people who hold the title of Senator decide to demean that title and what their oath of office calls them to do by behaving in the manner that many of them displayed throughout these few days of hearings with this nominee.
It has been said that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is one of the best qualified candidates that has been presented for appointment to the high honor of sitting on the Supreme Court. One wonders why it seems that these men who had the opportunity to engage her at a level that would have shown respect for her record, intellect and clearly displayed capability to meet anyone at the highest level of inquiry and interrogation decided instead to act as if they were empty headed school yard bullies? It would be harder to imagine a response to this question, if she were not an African American woman and they were not white men who appear to still be living in the unconsciousness of yesteryear. It appears that they are holding onto the notion that one needs to do everything possible to discredit African American excellence, integrity, and commitment to the ideals upon which this country was founded. They allowed their commitment to continuing to make last unheroic efforts to obstruct an African American woman from having access to a seat at one of our highest tables to paint an unfortunate picture of them by their performances. I wonder if they are conscious enough to know what they really did this week?
But whether they do or not, all of us, regardless of race, class or gender can be proud to be present in this moment when we have the chance to bear witness to the result of a little African American girl who dared to dream and to believe that this land belonged to her and that she could use her intellectual and psychological abilities to be a free woman someday. She sat in that seat over the past days for all of us who understand what it is like to be marginalized, denigrated, deemed unworthy for one reason, absolutely one reason only, because you are not white. This woman in a white skin would have been treated far differently from what we observed this week.
But she rose to the occasion, though she was seated the entire time. She did not allow their racist inspired disrespect to destabilize her. She remained calm, clear headed, poised, and clearly grounded in an understanding of who she is and her place on this planet and in this country. She knows how to persevere in the face of adversity and in the face of schoolyard bullying. She made all of us who care about being good human beings proud.