After contentious confirmation hearings in the Judiciary Committee, the full Senate is expected to approve Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination, and she’ll be one step closer to becoming the first Black woman ever to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.
That will be a monumental achievement, but such feats aren’t accomplished without sacrifice. Black women are all too familiar with that reality, and Judge Jackson was reminded of that truth during confirmation hearings that were too often hostile.
Several Republican senators used the hearings as a platform to demean her as a Black woman and a judge, asking her ridiculous questions about irrelevant subjects ranging from critical race theory to the meaning of womanhood. They criticized sentencing decisions that were strikingly similar to sentences handed down by other federal judges. They seemed intent on reminding her that despite her qualifications and experience, she is still a Black woman.
Yet, as insulting as that treatment was, I am reminded of the biblical story of Joseph. After rising to prominence despite his brothers selling him into slavery, Joseph told his brothers that while they meant their actions for evil, God meant them for good.
It’s good that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is on the cusp of confirmation despite the ill treatment she received. It is a testament to the strength of Black women everywhere, including the many Black women who made it possible for me not only to survive, but to thrive.
When I see Judge Jackson, I see my great grandmother, Sallie, who taught us how to clean houses, by paying us to clean hers. My grandmothers, Lula and Adele, who raised my parents and their siblings. My aunt Juanita who prayed for me in my lowest moment. My mother Carolyn, who sacrificed for me throughout my life. My wife LaVeta, who loves me in spite of myself. My daughters, who are reflections of me. My nieces and cousins and associates and friends who are among the dozens of Black women who’ve made my life a little sweeter, a little better, and a lot more beautiful.
These women are the reason I understood, in ways that some could not, the sentiments expressed by Cory Booker, who looked at Judge Jackson during her confirmation hearing and told her that in looking at her “I see my ancestors and yours.”
While praising her resilience in the face of relentless Republican attacks, Booker struck a chord, and as tears welled up in Jackson’s eyes, he talked about his refusal to let anyone steal the joy he felt at watching her rise to the highest court in the land.
“When that final vote happens, and you ascend onto the highest court in the land, I’m going to rejoice,” he said. “And I’m going to tell you right now, the greatest country in the world, the United States of America, will be better because of you.”
I share that sentiment, but my joy is not just for Judge Jackson. My joy is for all the Black women who sacrificed so much for me. In seeing Ketanji Brown Jackson on the U.S. Supreme Court, those women will get to see themselves.
Solomon Jones, host of “Wake Up With WURD,” is the author of 11 books. His latest is “Ten Lives Ten Demands: Life and Death Stories and a Black Activist’s Blueprint for Racial Justice.”