Ketanji Brown Jackson Working Mom Quotes
As Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, began her opening remarks at the confirmation hearing earlier this week, she addressed her children:
“Girls, I know it hasn’t been easy as I’ve tried to navigate the challenges of juggling my career and motherhood,” the federal judge told her two daughters, Talia, 21, and Leila, 17. “And I fully admit, I haven’t always found the right balance.
There she was, a judge poised to take on one of America’s most prestigious roles and make history as the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, and before a single Committee member Senate judiciary could question her work or devalue her record, she apparently beat them: she was already making excuses.
It’s something that working mothers across the country deeply understand or barely register. The idea that a woman would be struggling with the combined needs of her career and her family is so pervasive in the experience of modern motherhood that it seems pointless to discuss it, like asking a neighbor: “How was your day? or comment on the weather.
Related: What I Didn’t Understand About Being a Working Mom Until I Had One
Perhaps that’s why her role as a mother was barely discussed during the three long days of hearings – during which she was asked to answer for her supposed leniency in the child pornography cases and was asked about her stance on critical race theory, a ploy that involved Ted Cruz holding up a copy of the children’s book, anti-racist baby. It may not have been a consistent topic of discussion, as one could infer that it was sexist, or at the very least anti-feminist, to comment on her dual role as a parent.
It is certain that there have been a total of 120 judges to sit on the Supreme Court, including 115 men. Many of these men were also parents, but raising children is rarely, if ever, discussed when they were considered for high-level government jobs. On the contrary, even Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, the two female judges who are not mothers, received mixed attention for their childless status at the time of their hearings. Opinion pieces, for example, criticized Obama’s selection of Kagan as a missed opportunity to have a mother’s voice on the bench, but finding the press on the added value of a father’s perspective is rarely appeared for their male counterparts in recent years. It didn’t make the headlines when John Roberts and Samuel Alito became judges in the early 2000s and, aside from attempts to portray him as a “dad of daughters” to reduce sexual assault complaints, it certainly did not dominate the news. cycle for Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
This was perhaps a precedent damning enough to warrant keeping it out of future Supreme Court nomination hearings: by continually drawing attention to a woman’s status as a mother, it confirms the deeply held notion that raising children is a woman’s job.
But then there was Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Just two years ago, she occupied the exact same seat that Jackson occupies now. Confirmed to the Supreme Court in a record 30 days, Barrett wore her working mom title as a badge of honor throughout her hearing, and senators on both sides of the aisle addressed her parenting stance. with respect and reverence. The fact that she had seven children between the ages of 8 and 18 seemed as much proof of her professional abilities as her court credentials. Namely, when Democrats expressed concern she would vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act, the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley made no mention of his scholarly writings on the subject when he said, “As a mother of seven children, Judge Barrett clearly understands the importance of health care.” Aside from an offhand remark about who does the laundry at home, Barrett, a self-proclaimed ride-hailing driver and birthday party planner, has been hailed as a “superstar.” She was described as “remarkable”. Anyone who dared to question his nomination was accused of anti-feminism and anti-family.
For better or worse, that hasn’t been Jackson’s experience in recent days. We didn’t ask him “how do you do it?” She wasn’t celebrated for the kids she raised or the moot balls she juggled at the top of every senator’s list of talking points.
While Barrett’s experience seemed to shine a light on the accomplishments of working mothers, Jackson’s hearing served as a not-quite-shining reminder of the historically overlooked accomplishments unique to black working mothers.
Indeed, working black mothers are so much a part of our nation’s history – they have worked outside the home for more than two centuries, far longer than mothers of any other racial lineage – that their contributions have evolved to look a lot like faded wallpaper in an old house. Expected, and decidedly banal.
Forgotten among the struggles of working mothers, in general, is that black mothers have always been more likely to work. At 78% versus 66%, they still have a higher labor force participation rate, but earn less than white mothers. Considering that two-thirds of black mothers are equal, primary or sole earners for their household, this means that these income inequalities have a much greater negative impact on their families.
By not addressing motherhood at work, it becomes easy to overlook the barriers women face. And by only acknowledging the working motherhood of mothers like Barrett, it becomes easy to deny that mothers like Jackson exist.
But it is these black working mothers who face the twin forces of sexism and racism throughout their lives and careers. For them to succeed, they have to work harder for less. And then, after all that sacrifice, they – like Jackson did – still feel the need to apologize for it.
Related: Being a working mom is my identity. But can we drop the label?
One of the few mentions of Jackson’s parenthood outside of his own opening remarks was from Senator Corey Booker, who asked him to expand on his “provocative” statement – his apology for not striking the right balance between finish her job and raise her daughters.
“I had struggled like so many working moms to juggle motherhood and career,” she replied. “And it takes a lot of hard work to become a judge, to do the job of a judge, which I’ve been doing now for almost 10 years. You have many cases. It is often early in the morning and late in the evening. That means there will be auditions at your daughters’ recitals, there will be birthday emergencies that you have to deal with. You don’t have to be a perfect mother. But if you do your best and love your children… you’ll be fine.
As the Senate prepares to vote on Jackson in the coming weeks, it is likely that she will be confirmed.
What is less clear is whether they will have considered her work outside of the judge’s chambers or whether they will also overlook the struggles of another working black mother. Maybe his statement wasn’t an apology after all, but a call to be seen as such.
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