Today a Black woman, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed to serve as a Supreme Court Justice in the United States of America.
Do you feel the immense wave of pride surging through Black women right now?
I watched the voting live and felt prouder and prouder as they came in. Honorable Justice Brown Jackson and I are the same age (51), and graduated law school in the same year (1996).
This is historic in so many ways for this country, for Black people, and for Black women.
As I see her make history, here are a few things I’m reflecting on: great things are possible in your 50’s, how deeply satisfying it is to see your work get to the pinnacle of your career while also knowing the unrelenting pressure Black women face –having to be perfect, excellent all of the time with no room for mistakes.
Today I celebrate but I can’t not discuss those hearings.
For some folks, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s televised hearings were a first-time glimpse into the workplace reality that Black women face every day. And for us Black women, they were all too familiar and hard to watch –and that’s due to misogynoir.
Misogynoir and performing excellence
Misogynoir: dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against Black women. The term was created by Moya Bailey.
Coined “the sigh heard around the world” by Washington Post’s Features Editor Janay Kingsberry, Judge Brown Jackson’s exasperation at the barrage of racist and sexist questioning by GOP senators (mostly white men) reflects the near-constant frustration that Black women experience all too often.
What many have praised as Hon. Brown Jackson’s grace and stoicism in the face of such treatment, is also indicative of being pressured to be perfect in her responses, her demeanor, and her professional presence. Deeply rooted in many Black women’s socialization is being expected to show up in front of their white peers, colleagues, and society as nothing less than perfect and excellent every day.
That is unreasonable, unfair, and unsustainable. And we need to stop demanding it of Black women. Instead, we need to name and eradicate anti-Blackness and misogynoir that show up in ourselves, our communities, workplaces, and society.
To Black women who are reading this, I see you and share your feelings. And, I believe that you deserve to thrive in the workplace.
To our allies, celebrate with your Black colleagues AND reflect on the ways that you maintain the unhealthy stereotype of Black women constantly being perfect and excellent when you work with or for them.
Congratulations Hon. Justice Brown Jackson, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. I can’t wait to see you on the bench.
Yours in thriving,