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The New Black Girl Supreme and what this means...

On June 30, 2022, Ketanji Brown Jackson—a native Washingtonian and Harvard

alumna—has been sworn into the U.S. Supreme Court. After the Supreme Court’s two century-long existence, we have finally been fortunate enough to receive the first female Black justice.

Now that we officially have a Black Woman justice, Black Girls can continue to persevere for equality, knowing that they have another role model, who has experienced racial division throughout her life and has prevailed.

Ketanji Brown Jackson, although born in Washington, D.C. in 1970, was raised in Miami,

Florida. Jackson was an exceptional student throughout her time in Miami Palmetto Senior High School, participating in her school’s debate team and even becoming the class president (Fisher et al.). However, this did not avert racial tensions even as a young girl. Jackson’s school’s counselor,

particularly, wanted her to lower her expectations and aspirations, as she aimed to attend the prestigious Harvard University—but Jackson’s tenacity only made her want to apply to Harvard nonetheless, which was successful since she graduated from Harvard for her undergraduate and law degree (Fisher et al.). Even at Harvard, Jackson still encountered racially motivated disturbances—a classmate “hung up a Confederate flag from his dorm room window,” but Jackson’s determination did not feed into her classmate’s gimmick (Fisher et al.).

Currently, the overturn of Roe v. Wade has left drastic scars over females’ reproductive

and abortion rights. Roe v. Wade (1973) ruled women’s right to an abortion, implied through the right to privacy; the 49-year ruling had safeguarded women’s reproductive rights, allowing states to legalize abortion or allow abortions in times of rape or life-threatening situations.

Now, the right to an abortion is left in the state legislatures’ hands. Conservative states

generally disfavoring abortion are now reinstating abortion bans, disproportionately affecting Black Girls and Women who are the most common group

suffering from pregnancy complications (Population Reference Bureau). Additionally, the CDC reports that Black women have nearly 132,000 reported abortions from data acquired from 30 states in 2019—the highest rate in the U.S. (Kortsmit et al.). Black girls, particularly those in their teenage years, must be increasingly cautious of getting pregnant at a young age because society is not doing enough to help, so they must manage raising a child and the enormous cost and responsibility that comes with it.

Moreover, Black Girls and Women are often discouraged from desiring lucrative careers by replacing it with traditional labor like housework. This discouragement stems from the discriminatory practices from the era of slavery that is institutionally embedded in the United States, visible through pay gaps: “Black women earn 63¢ for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men” (Roux). In fact, over 180,000 Black Women left the workforce near the end of 2021, and if the current generation of Black Women are

experiencing this disaster, it will evoke fear and distress in Black Girls who, like everyone else, want a future having their all their wishes but now view it as out of reach (Barr et al.). However, after noticing the grand achievements of someone like Ketanji Brown Jackson—that did the opposite despite what others, particularly white individuals who doubted her, said—the fear and distress that Black Girls may have should be diminished because a path will always exist, and it is within their power to maneuver through life’s obstacles to reach the end of that path.

Since the future is not set in stone, the persistence for equality even if optimism seems

non-existent is effective. Ketanji Brown Jackson had a firm, dedicated path to success as a Black Girl in a predominantly white area in the 1970s, and so can other Black Girls. Black Girls have long been belittled, but the same belittlement has functioned and will continue to function as a catalyst for change.

-Mikias Goshime, TRIBE Summer Intern

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