That is the joy Jackson’s successors, young Black women in the Harvard Black Law Students Association, expressed in this New York Times profile, while at the same time reinforcing how hard it as been to get there, to have to be “near perfect” to do it. Here are a few of their reflections, but it is well worth your time to read the whole article.
Abigail Hall, who is 23, has always wanted to be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, but says “if I have to be second, I’m fine being second to K.B.J.” “She’s had to meet every single mark and she hasn’t been able to drop the ball,” Hall said. “And that’s something that’s ingrained in us, in terms of checking every box, in order to be a Black woman and to get to a place like Harvard Law School.”
Catherine Crevecoeur, 25, watched the hearings and gave side-eye to Republicans. “They were trying to plant seeds of distrust,” she said. “It’s not new. It’s very common, I think, to a lot of people of color in these spaces.” That makes Jackson’s confirmation all the more important. “That’s why it’s extra imperative for people to be represented and to see ourselves and to know that we belong in these spaces,” she said. Christina Coleburn added that “We’re our ancestors’ wildest dreams, some you’ve never gotten to meet.”
Virginia Thomas (not that Virginia Thomas) is already marking victories. She helped pass New York City’s ban on discrimination over hair, and reveled in the picture of Jackson “with sisterlocks, standing up there in her glory and her professionalism.” “It’s an opportunity for people to really visualize and see Black women doing what they do, which is being unapologetically successful, unapologetically confident in who they are,” Thomas said. She organized screenings of the hearings at Harvard, and said watching the support staff of the school—cafeteria staff, custodians, security guards—was a highlight for her. “Watching with the staff in the morning before students started trickling in after classes and realizing that this moment is bigger than just for law school nerds who love the Supreme Court,” she said. “It also matters for everyday people.” She added, “Everyday people who look at this woman and think to themselves, ‘Wow, she did it.’”
Gwendolyn Gissendanner grew up in working-class Detroit and works at the school’s student-run Legal Aid Bureau. “We always have to think about what we need to do to make my often Black low-income clients appeal to a white judge who doesn’t understand their experience,” she said. “But someone who you don’t have to take the extra leap to prove to them that race interacts with every aspect of your life makes a giant difference in what types of decisions can be made.”
“This is a Black woman who went to Harvard undergrad, who went to Harvard Law School,” Aiyanna Sanders said. “We are literally walking in her shoes as we walk through this hallway. And so it’s so close to home. Wow, these things are attainable. But also dang, why hasn’t it happened yet? Or why is it that in 2022 is the first time this has occurred?”
It won’t be the last time, Ms. Sanders.