Assistant Professor SaraEllen Strongman discusses the Ketanji Brown Jackson hearings and Black sisterhood
"In the opening scenes of Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” the protagonist Janie’s return to her hometown after many years away sets off rumors about what she has been doing for all these years. She grants her friend Pheoby permission to share her tale with their gossipy neighbors, trusting Pheoby to correct any malicious lies. “You can tell ‘em what Ah say if you want to,” Janie says. “Dat’s just de same as me ‘cause mah tongue is in mah friend’s mouf.”
I was reminded of that passage this week during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, who would be the first Black woman on the high court. For two blistering days, Jackson was harangued and subjected to degrading questioning from Republican senators who twisted her record and undermined her authority. But there were a few bright spots — and, not surprisingly, most of them arose from Black female friendship.
University of Pennsylvania law professor Lisa Fairfax introduced her college friend’s scholarly and judicial qualifications as well as her personal qualities, “her heart of gold that always shows up from the first call you make for advice about your career to the first knock you hear on the door after learning you’re diagnosed with cancer. She’s always there.” Asked what advice Jackson would offer young people, the nominee relayed an anecdote from her Harvard days, when, feeling like a fish out of water on campus one day, a Black woman she didn’t know leaned over unsolicited to say: “Persevere.”"