It’s not often that we get these global historic moments. You know those moments where every Black girl in our nation will take a second to stop and look at an image on a screen. We will stop because it will a Black woman we see. The headlines and social media posts with those images will share with the world the HERstoric decision by President Biden to nominate US Courts of Appeals for the District of Columbia Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.
For Gen Z Black women and girls, we will be very aware that for the first time in the history of our nation we will see an image before us that is us. We will stare at her image and see in the face of Judge Ketani Brown Jackson our hopes, goals, ambition, desires, and wildest dreams. We will see a Black woman who has once again broken a long historic barrier of discrimination and as she moves forward in her confirmation process will carry us along with her.
We also will be aware that with Judge Brown Jackson as President Biden’s nominee, that America will also show us another side of our nation’s history. We know that we are moments away from an orchestrated attack by those on the political right to attempt to destroy Judge Brown. We know we will see memes and news stories that will attempt to dehumanize her across Instagram and TikTok. We understand that as much as our nation wants to hide its historic pattern of racism that when events such as this take place America will be America.
Since the very beginning of our nation, Black women have always found ourselves the most devalued by our society. Black women have historically been portrayed in a wide variety of negative and demeaning stereotypes that deliberately make us such characters that we are never truly human in the eyes of society.
There are many in our nation who proudly continue this sick American tradition of attempting to dismantle Black women. They never miss any occasion to attack us for simply existing in spaces they believe we have no reason being in. From the attacks on actresses such as Leslie Jones to HERstoric groundbreaking athletes such as Simone Biles, the plan is always the same, discredit, devalue, and dehumanize.
As a 19 year old Gen Z Black woman third year law student, it is not lost on me that at this very moment when our nation is facing a blatant attack on our democracy and on the truth of our history, that there are many in our nation that will attempt to destroy Judge Brown and stop the appointing a Black woman to the Supreme Court. Those who are desperately trying to hold on to a system that guarantees their privilege and place in society simply because of the color of their skin see this upcoming HERstoric appointment as another step towards our nation moving forward to finally fully dismantling it. This is why the attacks will be so deliberate and honestly desperate. Those that oppose equality will go to the extremes to attempt to stop progress of any kind.
So as we watch these media and social media battles heat up over this appointment, I am also reminded that HERstory will be made because of a very well qualified Black woman who can step in and serve our nation as a member of the Supreme Court.
When you read about the life journey of Judge Brown Jackson you see that she is a trailblazer that has helped create positive change in our society. Judge Brown Jackson has all the qualifications that if she was a white man would have likely put her on the Supreme Court earlier in her life. She attended and graduated from Harvard University for both undergraduate and law school. She was an editor for the Harvard Law Review. She served as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. President Obama appointed her to serve as a judge for the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in 2013 and was confirmed with bipartisan support by a simple voice vote of the United States Senate.
Just that list of proven experiences should make Judge Brown Jackson qualified and ready to make HERstory. But when you dig deeper, especially for Black Gen Z members, you also see a record by Judge Brown Jackson of using her voice within the system to create change. Early in her career Judge Brown Jackson served as an Assistant Federal Public Defender. In 2009 President Obama nominated Judge Brown Jackson to serve as the Vice President of the United States Sentencing Commission. The Sentencing Commission was created in 1984 to address the sentencing disparities that existed and to promote transparency and proportionality in sentencing. As Vice Chair of the Sentencing Commission, she supported reforms that established retroactive reductions in penalties for crack cocaine. This resulted in over 12,000 individuals being made eligible to have their sentences reduced.
I share an overview of the background and work of Judge Brown Jackson because we know that the attacks we have witnessed online and in the media so far on just the idea of a Black woman being appointed to the United States Supreme Court were just the beginning. With President Biden announcing Judge Brown Jackson as his nominee the amount of online attacks that will spread deliberate miss information about her may actually break the internet.
As the confirmation process of Judge Brown Jackson starts, the reality is that she and her family will have to stand in the middle of the nomination process and take on the deliberate attacks on her very existence. We as a community must be prepared to wrap our collective arms around her and her family, and protect them. We cannot wait until the day the attacks start to push back. We have a very deep and historical responsibility to not become spectators of the process but to be in the arena ourselves standing up against the attacks that we all know are coming.
We know that this decision by President Biden to nominate Judge Brown Jackson will help break down a barrier for Black women in our nation. How we respond as Black people, especially Black Gen Z, to Judge Brown Jackson’s nomination and how we protect her will not only help make HERstory but will also define for future generations how we stood during these times. I have no doubt in my mind that Black Gen Z is up for this challenge.
Haley Taylor Schlitz is 19 years old and in her third year at SMU Dedman School of Law. In May of 2019, she became Texas Woman’s University’s youngest graduate in history when she graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas Woman’s University College of Professional Education. She is also the host of the online show Zooming In w/Gen Z. Follow all her endeavors on Instagram and Twitter.