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What Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson Means to Me

April 15, 2022

What Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson Means to Me


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It took more than two centuries to get an African-American woman nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court — 232 years, to be precise. Decades after the first Black man and the first woman joined the court. This is a big, historic moment for our country.

And even today, the supremely qualified Ketanji Brown Jackson had to sit through four days of grandstanding, bloviating and outright racism in the U.S. Senate. The carping she had to listen to on irrelevant, nonjudicial issues and wild conspiracy theories left a stain on our nation. Still, this moment is bigger than the smallest minds in the Senate. Ketanji Brown Jackson is greater than their hate.

Through it all, Judge Jackson showed grace. Deep learning. Wisdom. She modeled the word a stranger said to her when she was a college freshman, demonstrating to all of us how to persevere.

Some might say that Judge Jackson embodies our ancestors’ wildest dreams. I say no, she does not. In fact, she is continuing a long line of academic excellence that dates back to her ancestors’ time living on the continent of Africa.

As her mother and father so aptly foreshadowed by naming her Ketanji — a native African name that means “lovely one” — the world now knows what her parents knew 51 years ago: that their child Ketanji was special and indeed a lovely one.

We watched as those hearings lumbered along for days of grueling and sometimes ridiculous questions. With intellect, grace, style and prayer, Judge Jackson answered astutely and succinctly, drawing on the depth of her Harvard education and her time as an assistant federal public defender, her experience as an attorney in private practice, and her tenure as a federal district court judge, during which she wrote more than 550 opinions.

She also came shielded with the full armor of Harriet, Fannie, Maya and Shirley. On full display was the African American heritage of pain, struggle and perseverance, against a backdrop of love and hope.

This daughter of Florida public school educators, a public school graduate and former law clerk of Justice Stephen Breyer is unequivocally qualified to serve on the bench. She has more judicial experience than other recent Supreme Court nominees and has been confirmed by the Senate with bipartisan support three times already.

As an African American myself, I feel that Judge Jackson defines who we are as a people. But more importantly, she sends out a message to the world that springs from our biblical training: “No weapon formed against you shall prosper.”

My son, at age 23, and my daughters, ages 21 and 16, will in their lifetimes have seen a Black president, a Black female vice president and now a Black female Supreme Court justice, constant reminders that anything is possible with work, prayer and a never-give-in spirit. The same goes for all our children, whatever their race, whatever their gender and whatever their religion. Imagine the joys ahead in American life as our diversity grows and as we watch how, in the words of Sen. Cory Booker, “This country is getting better and better and better.”

As for me, a student of history, I recognize that life is a stage. If that is true, as our friend Bill Shakespeare once wrote, just imagine the ancestors looking over the balcony from the best seats in the house, smiling from ear to ear and singing that old spiritual, “Ain’t gon let nobody turn me around, … I’m gonna keep on walking, keep on talking, marching up to freedom land.”

America is a better place because Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated and will serve the nation brilliantly as a Supreme Court justice.

The work of the Supreme Court affects nearly every aspect of our daily lives. In Judge Jackson, we have an exceptionally qualified jurist who is devoted to the rule of law, the Constitution, and our country’s rich history of democracy and freedom. Her life story is the story of America.

Yes, there are still many mountains to climb, and yes, the treatment of Judge Jackson during her hearing was in many cases horrific. But here we stand. For justice, for freedom, for country and for family. To me, Ketanji Brown Jackson embodies the spirit of justice that must inform and guide the Supreme Court. In her decisions, she will help make this nation live up to its promise and hope. She will make this country better.

Judge Jackson has been called “an unwavering voice for justice and fairness.” Our own AFT President Randi Weingarten says that in Justice Jackson, our country will have “a Supreme Court justice who will not pick and choose whose rights they care about — a justice who will put justice first.”

Thank you to this patriot, this great American, this young lady who grew up in my hometown of Miami. Thank you in advance to this paragon of jurisprudence, to whom — the good Lord willing, for decades to come — the people of our country will say, “Thank you, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.”

The Supreme Court: Balancing the Branches Lesson Plans

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Fedrick Ingram
On Sept. 1, 2020, Fedrick C. Ingram was elected secretary-treasurer of the AFT, serving 1.7 million members, including pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government... See More

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