The Associated Press tapped Our Turn youth leaders, Sidney Griffin (NC), Tamara Morgan (GA), and Rachel McBride (Our Turn's Youth Leadership Council member in Atlanta, GA), to get their thoughts on this nascent moment in history as they observe Ketanji Brown Jackson to be confirmed as the first African American Woman to hold a seat on the United States Supreme Court.
Rachel McBride an 18-year-old high school senior in Atlanta, likened the moment more to a glass elevator than a glass ceiling — moving one level up, while keeping in mind the many more levels left to go.
“It’s great to be the first, but you never want to be the last,” McBride said. “One singular person can’t be the one to make change. It has to be followed up by more and more people that are willing to make change.”
When barriers are broken, McBride said, it is often followed by backlash or a feeling that marginalized communities should be satisfied with the symbolism. While Jackson would bring an invaluable perspective to the court, McBride said, it is not lost on her that the balance of the court would remain unchanged if Jackson were confirmed.
Already, some have tried to diminish Jackson’s nomination as affirmative action or discrimination against white people. Whether that strategy continues as her Senate hearing gets underway Monday is something that will be widely watched.
But those who say that are failing to see how unimpeachable Jackson’s accomplishments are, McBride said, from the judge’s Ivy League degree to her experience on the bench.
McBride said it reminded her of attending a summer camp for media studies at the University of Georgia a few years ago. She said she did twice the work of her classmates but was still accused of slacking off by the instructor.
“The really, really stressful thing about being Black, specifically being a Black woman, is that you have to be the best in order to get anywhere,” McBride said.
For Black girls, seeing someone like Jackson — the way she wears her hair, her darker complexion, having a name with African origins — fully embrace her Blackness and ascend to the top of the American judicial system is a reminder that they should not have to shrink themselves in order to succeed.
Black women are often told their natural hair is unprofessional, said Tamara Morgan, 18, an Atlanta high school senior. Their natural appearances are held against them, and used to take away from their qualifications, she said.
That’s why seeing Black women in leadership who embrace their identity means so much to Morgan. She said it’s like looking into a mirror and seeing herself and what’s possible.
“When I look at women like Stacey Abrams and Ms. Jackson, I just feel as though there’s room and there’s space for me in the world and a lot of other women that look just like us,” Morgan said. Democrat Abrams is making her second run for Georgia governor in 2022
Sidney Griffin, a 16-year-old junior in Charlotte who has participated in youth advocacy campaigns including ones for diversity in school curriculum and tuition equity for students covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program said this moment drove her to think even bigger.
“She’s definitely inspiring me to continue to create change in my community,” she said. “But it also makes me wonder how much more can I do to impact not just Charlotte, but North Carolina and I mean, America? She is inspiring little girls everywhere and teenagers like myself to continue to fight for change and to diversify the people that are in power who get to make these decisions that will influence us today and for generations to come.”