The Struggle Continues… By Sherry Cannon ‘Persevere’

I must be very transparent about this piece. I was peeved and needed to write it after watching the confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, especially after the tears started to flow from her eyes when Senator Corey Booker spent his 20-minutes affirming who she is.

A James Baldwin quote that often reverberates with me is, “to be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” It’s amazing that Baldwin said these words in 1961 and they are as relevant today as they were then.

Judge Jackson endured 23-hours and 1500 questions, mostly being berated by Republican Senators. It was tiresome to watch this incredibly smart woman remain strong, stoic, and unemotional, while the likes of Lindsey Graham and other white senators appeared unhinged, shrill, and racist. But like all Black women, who have been taught early, Judge Jackson, with resolve did not respond in kind to the petty and disingenuous line of questions.  Because we all know, anything less would have been unacceptable.

Being the first black anything in this country always brings a host of insults and indignities.

Constance Baker Motley was the first Black woman appointed to be a federal judge in 1966 by President Johnson, and the first Black woman to argue a case before the supreme court. Judge Motley endured many indignities in the courtroom, some judges would turn their backs to her when she spoke. Like Judge Baker Motley, as the first black federal judge, Judge Jackson is also one of the most qualified candidates to ever be considered for the Supreme Court.

Trying to make it make sense is impossible. Out of the 115 Supreme Court Justices, prior to her selection, 108 have been men, and 112 have been white individuals. She will be the first African American woman to serve on the high court and only the 4th person of color. While many people say, color doesn’t matter, I vehemently disagree with you. It has taken 232 years for America to get to this place.

These Republican Senators were not exercising truth or authenticity, not only in how they chose to question Judge Jackson, often not even allowing her to answer the question, but also in the misrepresentation of her character and life’s work.

We just have to go back to the confirmation hearing of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, and the demeanor he displayed after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified that he had sexually assaulted her in 1982 when they both were high school students. Justice Kavanaugh accused the Democratic Party of replacing “advise and consent with search and destroy.” Justice Kavanaugh’s behavior would have never been acceptable for Judge Jackson. 

I often go back to the teaching of scripture to gauge how our leaders line up, especially since the Republican party always claim to be the party of family values, and the party the religious right put their support behind. The book of Proverbs teaches that those who desire to live honestly, who want their lives to display faithfulness and authenticity, make choices based on what is true rather than what is expedient.

Nothing with how these Republican Senators did over those three days of Justice Jackson’s confirmation hearing represented honesty. The whole Republican charade was never about this individual woman, her qualifications, or her ideology. It was about using and abusing this Black woman as a political wedge. But about using every grievance against issues surrounding white perception and attacking Judge Brown Jackson with those grievances.

Judge Jackson will be the first former Public Defender to serve on the Supreme Court. She also served as a federal trial judge, a private practice lawyer, and as vice-chair and commissioner on the US Sentencing Commission.

The conventional background, for Supreme Court Justices, is large law firms, law professors, or prosecutors. Judge Jackson’s life and experience will provide a level of insight, never before represented on the Supreme Court, on the systemic inequities in the criminal justice system.

James Baldwin also said “if one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected-those precisely who need the law’s protection most-and listen to their testimony.”

Ann Claire Williams, a retired US Circuit Judge and chair of the American Bar Association Committee, which makes recommendations on federal judges, described Judge Jackson as outstanding, excellent, superior, and superb when she testified before the judicial committee. Judge Williams also stated that those were virtually the comments her committee received from everyone they interviewed regarding Judge Jackson.

At one point during her confirmation hearing, Judge Jackson shared an exchange between herself and another Black woman, who she did not know, on the grounds of Harvard, when she was a student. The two of them did not share a conversation, she didn’t come to console Judge Jackson, or witness any kind of mistreatment of her. This stranger, this black woman also on the campus of Harvard, clearly understood, without even knowing Judge Jackson personally, leaned in, and told her to persevere

So, when asked what advice did she have for other young Black women coming after her, Judge Jackson simply said, to persevere.