I have been asked what does it, this historic nomination, mean to me?
Anna Julia Cooper, Black American author, teacher and activist for Black liberation, once said, “Only a Black woman can say when and where I enter, in the quiet undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.”
What does this nomination and subsequent confirmation – speaking it into existence – mean?
There is a particularity to being Black, African American, American of African ancestry, the experience of Blackness, as well as the faithfulness of my people. That has been absent, missing on the Supreme Court of The United States.
When I pass by the Supreme Court I will smile. Someone who looks like me is there.
When I protest on the steps of the Supreme Court for abortion rights, labor rights, fair wages, quality education, I will smile. Someone behind those doors understands the impact, context, complicity of the triple jeopardy – race, class and gender.
When I see the picture of lifelong appointed servants, I will smile. Someone who gets it – disenfranchisement, discouragement, disrespect, discrimination, displacement – will be there.
It will be heard in her inquiries, her statements, her writings, her voice and our voice!
All American people will benefit when deliberations and decision-making on our highest court are sharpened by the perspective and persuasive power of a Black female justice.
And if that justice writes brilliant dissents in the tradition of Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, those words will become a part of the historical narrative and inspire, even if, they are “not the law of the land.”
It means she will be there for this and the next generation of young Black women. I wish she was there when my high school guidance counselor heard me say that I wanted to be a lawyer and work in the courts, and told me instead that I needed to be more realistic and placed me in a secretarial program.
Whoever the nominee will be, I see her even now in the spirit of our ancestors: Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Dorothy Heights, C. Delores Tucker, the Honorable Shirley Chisholm, the Honorable Constance Baker Motley.
The weight on the shoulders of this Black, African American, American of African ancestry woman is heavy even now. The pressure on her will be real to “represent,” but I have faith, confidence, and her back!
Some say the others, the conservatives, the Far Wrong (I don’t call them the “Far Right”), Some say the others, the conservatives. But we have a joy they did not give, they cannot understand, and therefore cannot take away.
For me as an African American woman and clergy, it means all these things and much, much more. The thief that neither sleeps nor slumbers wants to take away yet another hard-fought victory of yet another quantifiable, qualified, Black woman “in spite of” her contribution to this contradiction called the United States.
This moment in time means to me that when a Black woman enters and is seated in the highest court of the land, the whole race – past, present and future Negro, Black, African American, Americans of African ancestry – will enter with her!
Like that tree planted by the water, we shall not be moved!
Reverend Leslie Watson Wilson is the director of African American Religious Affairs at People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation.