We’re surrounded by the manifestations of the greatness of Black women: We can turn on the television and see Issa Rae writing awkward Black girls into history. We can see Vice President Kamala Harris addressing the nation. And soon, we might be able to crack open a textbook and read an opinion by none other than United States Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
As a third-year law student at Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island, I, like so many Black people, felt a rush of emotion over Brown Jackson’s historic nomination. Indeed, the confirmation of the future Justice Jackson would offer us a symbolic double hand-tap on the seat next to her for younger generations of Black girls.
Brown Jackson’s accomplishments are also a powerful reminder that the anti-Blackness that Black attorneys experience is not what defines us.
In early March as I waited — dressed professionally and carrying case-related folders and binders — to enter a Rhode Island courtroom, a deputy sheriff put his body between me and the door and told me to step to the side.
I was there as part of my law school’s experiential Criminal Defense Clinic — I’m conditionally barred to appear in court through the program. However, the sheriff’s deputy questioned me within earshot of other people about my name not being on the docket. To my shock, he asked me, “Are you the defendant?”