Imagine being overqualified for a position only to have your interviewers question whether you should have been afforded the opportunity to interview in the first place?
That’s exactly what happened to the current nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, at the hands of Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee. Regardless of your political leanings or your overall opinion on whether or not she should be confirmed, attacks on the merit of her nomination alone are baseless. Before Judge Jackson’s nomination, no Supreme Court Justice has served in so many capacities: Supreme Court clerk, Public defender, Sentencing Commission member, District judge, and Court of Appeals judge.
Questions surrounding Judge Jackson’s qualifications are all too familiar to women everywhere. In her book, Bias Interrupted: Creating Inclusion for Real and For Good, author and Director of the Center for WorkLife Law, Joan Williams, outlines forms of biases that are still far too common in our workplaces. As reported by Forbes, the “prove-it-again bias” illustrates how disadvantaged groups have to prove themselves in a way that advantaged groups do not. Williams highlights how white men tend to get by on their potential and are judged accordingly. People who are less privileged by their race, gender, and so on, however, more often have to constantly prove themselves in order to get ahead.
Judge Jackson, the first Black woman nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, faced scrutiny on the world stage as both a woman and a Black woman. She was asked about racist babies and critical race theory, questions I can’t recall Justice Amy Coney Barrett having to entertain just 17 months ago. The extended pauses before Jackson’s responses were calculated and deliberate. Black women law professors told The 19th that the hearings brought back memories of their own experiences navigating workplaces and advocating for themselves without speaking too harshly for fear of being labeled as angry or sensitive.
“You do all the things that you’re supposed to do, you go to the right schools, and still you can be treated like somebody who is an interloper, and who has no right to sit in the seat that she’s getting,” said Kimberly Mutcherson, co-dean and professor at Rutgers Law School in Camden, New Jersey.
Another group of women that saw themselves reflected in the Capitol Hill proceedings was working mothers. During her opening statement, Judge Jackson addressed her daughters, “Girls, I know it has not been easy, as I have tried to navigate the challenges of juggling my career and motherhood. And I fully admit, I did not always get the balance right.”
In just two sentences Jackson gave a voice to the working mother—her never-ending juggling act and the lingering feelings that she prioritized parenting “incorrectly”. This is a conversation that is typically relegated to little pockets of “mommy groups” on the internet. But Judge Jackson’s choice to bring it up, boldly and unapologetically on the biggest stage of her career, made her remarks on the matter, and a photo of her daughter looking at her with eyes full of pride, go viral.
Judge Jackson’s hearings wrapped up last week. How the vote goes and whether she is confirmed to the highest court in the land as the 6th woman and 1st Black woman remains to be seen. But for a few days, in the midst of Women’s History Month, women saw themselves and their various shared experiences reflected in Judge Jackson. Her nomination was historic and monumental and we’re not letting anyone steal our joy!