The confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson allows me to describe the moment simply as: ‘I loved it! A moment that will have an impact on little Brown girls who will come after her, on women like myself, who have and will continue to climb the legal ladder and make every attempt to surpass the proverbial glass ceiling. Simply put, ‘Representation matters!’
When first I heard that Judge Brown Jackson, a Black woman, was being considered for the Supreme Court appointment, I recall saying to myself, “I would believe it only when it happens.” Then, it happened, Justice Stephen G. Breyer announced his retirement and I thought, it’s gonna happen. But for me, nothing happens until it happens. And then it happened! District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated for appointment to the Supreme Court, and she had to wait to be confirmed.
As we watched the confirmation process, many were unclear and questioned why Judge Brown Jackson—with her credentials, qualifications, and experience—had to go through such a rigid process. Some said,
“What’s up with those questions?” I read where Senator Cory Booker stated that he heard from people who related “their stories about having to come into a room where you’re more qualified than the people sitting in judgment of you and having to endure the absurdities….” I recall once applying for a position and was asked the question, “Do you consider yourself an overachiever?” Ask yourself that question, how would you answer that question?
Wanting to be an attorney was not looked at as a job for me, but a passion. My papa, the late Ralph Roper Sr., had my siblings and I think about careers as teenagers. I recall my papa saying, “If you do something you enjoy, it will never be a job.” My commitment to the justice system along with many of my colleagues, has sometimes been a very long and hard road, especially because, as women of color, it has required dogged determination, hard work, strength and grace. With staying focused on the long road, I am often conscious of one of my many affirmations: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair,” said Shirley Chisholm. I have walked into many courtrooms, ready to make an appearance in court, and been asked whether I was either a defendant’s family member, a social worker (there is nothing wrong with being either) or been ignored, until I showed my attorney identification. Would my bringing a “folding chair” help? Yes, how, because, we all have the ability to make changes and be a part of the change.
Judge Brown Jackson’s appointment to the Supreme Court—since its 232 year history, 17 chief justices, 103 associate justices, 5 female justices, two Black males and now a soon-to-be confirmed first female Black judge—is historic and an inspiration to future generations of Americans.
As we celebrate this historic moment, be reminded: “Does my sassiness upset you?…Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes?…You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise…Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise! I rise! I rise!” said Maya Angelou.
Casilda E. Roper-Simpson, Esq. is an adjunct professor at Molloy College and a former administrative law judge. She can be contacted at email@example.com.