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Joy + Perseverance: Two Lessons I’m Taking Away from the Ketanji Brown Jackson Confirmation Hearings

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

Photo Credit: The Collective PAC

UPDATED: Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has been confirmed!


I know the internet has already had so many versions of this conversation.

And some of our brightest minds in cultural criticism have weighed in eloquently. I encourage you to read the thought pieces by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Mia Birdsong, and Elie Mystal:

Cory Booker said it best—when he used his precious moments in front of the committee—to pour loving truth and powerful perspective into the moment.

Anyone with a brain cell (not talking to you Cruz, Sasse, or Graham) knows Ketanji is beyond qualified. But, make no mistake, we saw on full display: racist, sexist, and harmful gaslighting. And watching her sit through it, handle it in herculean patience, and display repeated grace, strength, and laser beam focus…is what we need to all be taking away from this moment.

And let’s never forget, if a superiorly qualified Black woman had to endure that public spectacle of macro aggression, never forget what your BIPOC employees, friends, and colleagues endure on a regular basis when no one is watching.

Most of all, I feel honored to know this incredible woman and her family. Her mother, Ellery, was my high-school teacher and eventually, my school's Principal. She's been a force in my life since I was a teenager. Here’s a wonderful shout out to her mom and our high school from the hearing:

So, even though last week’s confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson were a shit show of mediocre white men and racist dog-whistling, I wanted to focus instead on the two positive lessons I’m taking away —

Joy and Perseverance.

Joy Matters

This picture, by Sarahbeth Maney, a NY Times photojournalist, has made the rounds because it captures the incredible pride, love, and JOY that Ketanji’s daughter, Leila, shares in just one look at her mom during these hearings.

This moment has been memorialized and rightfully so.

But beyond the admiration from her daughter, I see an invitation to embrace our admiration and love of strong women in our lives and within ourselves, even in the face of the ridiculous, the hurtful, and the ignorant.

Choosing joy — especially if you are awake, aware, and an actionist, may seem counterintuitive to the times we live in. But my friend, author, and fellow changemaker, Karen Walrond said it best on the Brené Brown podcast, “Unlocking Us”

Persevere, Persevere, Persevere...

One of the most moving moments of Ketanji’s hearing was when Senator Alex Padilla (CA) asked her what advice she would give the next generation looking at her and watching her now. What would she say to them?

Her one-word answer brought so many to tears.

She spoke of being a freshman at Harvard and being unsure she fit in.

Walking through the campus she passed by another Black woman, a woman she didn’t know but who profoundly left an impact by saying to her softly and directly as she walked by...: “Persevere”

I don’t want to co-opt a story or a moment that isn’t meant for me.

What I do want to say is that this advice is what I'll be holding on to as I continue my own commitment to dismantling internal systems of oppression.

Our work at my company is as cultural experts, and we at our core are about leveraging our power, privilege, and relationships to help big brands and companies change their policies, marketing, and products to be more equitable and inclusive. That’s what I’ve chosen to create my career around.

And personally, I know I'll always be on a learning curve about my own whiteness and privilege.

The legendary daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bernice A. King issued this incredible call to action.

And I couldn’t agree more.


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