Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson & Why We Are All Worthy
There were times during the past couple of weeks where I wanted to crawl up in a ball and be invisible to the world. Not very easy when you’re a thick, deeply hued Black woman. But I was willing to give it a whirl in the middle of…
Tornado making landfall here in New Orleans…
Speaking all month long, during Women’s History Month, on racial justice and equity, and our social proclivity to criminalize bodily autonomy in every aspect…
And in between, watching white conservative lawmakers wear Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson down to the nubs of her existence…
It was a lot.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s ideas for justice were reframed to suit a narrative that she didn’t deserve her nominated seat at the SCOTUS table. And her credentials questioned by the mediocrity of conservative legislators who couldn’t have withstood the trials of Black womanhood that it took her to acquire those credentials for one single minute.
It was about then, when I was over it and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wore the weary on her face, that Senator Cory Booker stepped in affirming, “You are worthy! Don’t let them steal your joy! You deserve to be in that seat.”
That did it, the dam broke and before I knew it, I was crying for all of us. We all have jumped through enough hoops to last 2 or 3 lifetimes of living. We are all worthy of being in our seats.
While I know it was an act of mercy for Senator Booker to speak up on behalf of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Black women don’t have many who will speak up for us.
I also have been considering the fallacy of worthiness when it comes to labor.
Our society validates labor based on a caste system of who gets denied affirmations and physical safety and who is validated. Sex work, for instance, is not a valid form of labor according to our society. And for that very reason, we get what we get.
Often those offerings come in the form of physical violence, arrests, and the denial of critical resources such as housing, banking, and critical community support.
But hey, society says, if you change that narrative, get a “real” job, go to school, contribute in meaningful ways that we agree with, then we will support you.
Ha! Laughable! As Alexandra Hunt is asserting all of that in her campaign as a former sex worker, soccer coach, and a myriad of other labor titles that she utilized to make meaningful contributions in our society, she is still being picked apart as unworthy for a seat in congress by media and the opposition because she once was a sex worker.
On the other hand, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is an exemplary model of an American “success story” by all means. She attended and graduated from Harvard Law. She is from a working class family, is married, and has two children. Her academic career is stellar by all accounts and she has fought for equity in drug sentencing, and still that labor isn’t enough.
The fallacy of labor, good work versus bad work, is built on moral codes that we didn’t create, instilled in our psyche from decades of programming to keep us in line with the status quo, and to keep our problematic bodies out of spaces we supposedly don’t belong.
What both of these women share is that they have a history of being the underdog and then fighting for those of us at the bottom of all things human rights. By being who they are, they are resisting body politics, racialized thresholds, and labor castes. They have brought their own seats to the table that they were never invited to, or in Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s case, not invited by all, and are unapologetically taking up space.
It’s a daunting task to take up space by using your body and your brain to place your dignity on display for the whole world to criticize and analyze to death. But we must do this because the next generation will ask, “Am I worthy?” And they should be able to look back in history for a response that says, “Yes, I was worthy then, and you my love are worthy now. You deserve to be everywhere, and anywhere.”
You deserve that seat!
This is what I want to affirm for myself, for those listening, and for all workers everywhere.