Please stop the discount— she won’t make a difference. Stop. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has been nominated to the Supreme Court. On the surface, the comments mean she won’t change the idealogical balance of the court. Is that all anyone sees or thinks? She is a black woman married to a white man with biracial children. In addition to her extensive judicial record, she has a perspective none of the men or women of the court have. Her extended family is the future American demographic. Her presence will challenge assumptions, shift the discussions and enrich the discourse. As a black woman, I have three examples of my mere presence marking a shift.
- I was with a group of college friends in South Carolina and we were at a polo field. One of the guys said, “Man, this is so southern, they even have a nigger mowing the lawn,” he froze.The other two guys looked at him and no one said anything else for a while.
- I was working in China and coworkers on the bus ride back to the hotel were bemoaning spending an entire day where there were no other white people. I was the only black person on the bus and one of them looked at me and said, “oh gee, we sound silly, that is your experience all the time.” we had a conversation.
- The audience was invited to stay for a discussion After a performance of “An Octoroon” at Berkeley Rep. One woman commented, how shocking it all was, but, that was past. She commented, watching black face was uncomfortable, but she was glad we are past that. I responded, maybe for you, but not for me. I relayed the story of working in the Netherlands during the Sinterklaas, I am the lone black person in this three story office building in which these grown business men donned blackface as Zwarte Piet and handed out spicy nuts. By this point, my voice cracked, do you know the humiliation to sit in a room and try to to keep tears and emotions at bay to be professional when you are being mocked? The room shifted and the stories spilled out.
There wasn’t anything to terribly dramatic in any of these instances other than my presence being a spotlight to something normalized.
Both of my parents, who were born in 1921 were college educated. My dad had his masters. But, I had a coworker discount me saying, “well you went to college and made it out of the ghetto.” My coworker who could not even come close to saying the same about his family lineage and still discounted me. “The soft bigotry of low expectations.” As black women, we’re treated as knowns. No variables, nothing to solve for, just a blanket, not as good as, less than. In no circumstances equal to and laughable to think greater than and that is mathematical incompetency and historical inaccuracy.
I really am laughing now because of the hesitation I have, oh boy, hope I don’t get labeled as another angry black woman. I made an observation, married it with my own experience and included the thought that I do make a difference. My ask this week, consider, are you discounting anything you need to rethink?