A Harbinger of Hope

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A Harbinger of Hope

Posted by Vice President for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Kenya Hobbs

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson

At the time of this writing, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is enduring the confirmation process of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to validate her qualifications to serve as a Supreme Court Justice. I use the verb “enduring” deliberately, because this is no ordinary job interview. 

At times, it has reminded me of a lopsided schoolyard fight, where a group takes their best swipes at a lone individual. It is within this context that I share with you how I was moved to tears while sitting alone in my office as the vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, listening to the validating words of Senator Cory Booker to Justice Brown Jackson. It was a reminder of why the work that I do is so necessary. The advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion is critical to this nation’s ability to heal, to learn, to grow and to care about the plight of individuals who constantly must validate their worthiness of respect and basic human decency.

As I watched Justice Brown Jackson cry, I cried, but it was not out of pity for what she has endured. I wept because I saw in her reflections of my mother, my wife and my daughters, and I thought about the strength that each of them has developed through a lifetime of showing up as melanated women relegated to second-class citizenry in so many instances. As I sat and tried to process the affirming words of Senator Booker to Justice Brown Jackson, the tears flowed uncontrollably, until I found myself sobbing without restraint. I was moved by this Black man’s display of encouragement, support and validation for a lifetime of accomplishments by a Black woman who is imminently qualified to be treated with respect. Yet, over the course of three days of hearings regarding her legal qualifications for the role in question, she had received no such gesture of human decency. 

Seeing Brown Jackson permit herself for a moment to let her guard down and allow the world to witness her humanity as Senator Booker’s affirming words washed over her, figuratively cleansing her of all the maltreatment, insinuations and accusations levied upon her by predominately white male authority figures, was a moment that will leave an indelible mark on me. Watching her composure even while wiping away tears was a powerful display of strength and dignity that is forged through a lifetime of having to endure moments like these. Moments common to those whose gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation often determines how they will be viewed and treated in this society.  

As I tried to make meaning of this moment, I was struck by the profound lesson that began to crystalize in my mind. Here is the lesson: the power of being seen — truly being seen by another human being — is life affirming. It is simultaneously a simple and weighty act to acknowledge someone’s humanity, and to recognize, honor and connect with another person to tell them that they are worthy. What a tremendous gift it is to give someone the gift of our attention and recognition of their worth, based solely on our common humanity. 

Each day, within the Medaille community, we have the privilege to share the message with our students, colleagues, alumni and partners that they matter, and that we care. We see them and know that they are worth our total investment in working toward creating a better and more equitable future for us all. Let us consciously decide to be a harbinger of hope for people whose difference affects their journey in ways that we may never fully understand. Be intentional about sharpening your skills of allyship and advocacy on behalf of those who routinely have to face opposition just for existing.

I wonder if you might join me in an exercise, and ask yourself this question: what can I change within myself to make the world a better place for other people? 

Though some might think it is naïve to believe that changes they make within will have an impact on the environment around them, I do not think so. I think we have the capacity to rise to the challenge of putting in the work each day to transform our own lives, as well as the environments we navigate on our way to becoming a more perfect union.

As I wiped my tear-soaked face, I believed in that moment, as I do now, that we are better together. 

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