Guest: The symbol of Ketanji Brown Jackson

Guest writer, Iman Tahir, weighs in on the landmark significance of representation in the highest court.

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Ketanji Brown Jackson is the first Black woman appointed to the Supreme Court.

Darkness. Screaming, but never getting a response. Your own words reverberating back as an echo. Listened, but not heard. That’s how I felt without any representation.

Growing up, I kept hearing different names of people of color  all over the world being mistreated and unjustified. George Floyd being the most famous. People all over America participated in marches and protests, yet nothing was done to change the system of oppression. This symbolizes how Black people in America have been shown for the last 100 years. This is what we need to change. Another example comes from the Supreme Court itself.  

Until eighth grade, I never knew what the Supreme Court was or what they did. The first case we learned had to be Dred Scott v. Sandford. Dred Scott was a slave that went to free land which he determined made him a free man; however, the Supreme Court ruled no “negro” could be an American citizen, free or enslaved. This ruling shows a horrific experience of the inhumane opinions of a court. These seven white men chose to make a decision for all the Black Americans in the United States at the time. They made a decision to treat Black Americans like they are any less of a person just because of their skin color. The Supreme Court is supposed to show what’s moral and just. What grants them opportunity? Are they better than everyone else? What especially got me thinking is how could a completely different race know what’s best for us? That is where Ketanji Brown Jackson comes in. There have been other Black Supreme Court justices like Clarence Thomas who was confirmed in October 1991, but Judge Ketanji is the first Black woman to be on the Supreme Court. I am a Black woman thrilled to see someone like me on a screen for once, doing something that no one has ever done before, to see my reflection face back at me. 

I am a Black woman thrilled to see someone like me on a screen for once, doing something that no one has ever done before, to see my reflection face back at me. ”

— Iman Tahir

As a kid, I was ignorant of the color of my skin, mostly because my family immigrated here from Ethiopia. Ethiopia was never colonized, therefore we didn’t treat each other poorly based on our skin color, though tribal prejudices were still an issue. When my family came here, we didn’t understand the societal views of skin color. I thought everyone was at least treated the same on that basis, but growing up it was the little things that rubbed me the wrong way. The microaggressions that I had to ignore or else I was being aggressive. 

Someone would call me a derogatory slur, but if I talked back I was being loud and threatening. 

Someone would touch my hair and tell me it feels weird like I’m abnormal. 

Someone would look at the food I eat and think I am so different from them and “prove” it by othering me.

As I got older, I kept hearing these stereotypes on how, “most Black women dropout of high school anyway,” or they would say, “let’s face it I’m just smarter than you,” but looking at our future Supreme Court Justice, those stereotypes shattered instantly in my mind. 

The Supreme Court also needs a change in perspective when it comes to cases and opinions, because there is a deeper connection and depth when it comes to understanding which is something Judge Jackson can do on behalf of the Black community. She can offer Black Women around the nation the comfort of knowing important decisions aren’t made without that consideration. 

I never understood the real power of being involved in a community bigger than just Granite Bay, but looking at that screen made me understand just how influential this change could be. 

When I saw Judge Jackson in the hearing, I saw the confidence she carried. But, with all the confidence there was a weight on her back. She was carrying the hope of Black girls all over America. I saw pictures of Judge Jackson’s daughter looking at her with pride and accomplishment as she spoke. That is how every single Black child looked at her through that big TV screen with eyes of hope. Hope that she could get through this and show that she is as fierce as she seems. 

She can help others hear what we have to say, to make our voices heard. 

She can get the responses we need with her knowledge and experience. 

In this darkness, I hear a beckoning of comfort. I see Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson in the distance with a smile on her face, but something intriguing behind her that I’ve never seen before. A shining brightness that guides me to the way of happiness and gratitude for she is the person who I aspire to be. Light.