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President & CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson’s Statement on Historic Confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

Chicago Urban League President & CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson released the following statement on historic confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court:


This afternoon, I heard a collective sigh of relief that was witnessed across the world. I have been tempted to address the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson publicly since she was first nominated, but I resisted for fear that my seething anger might bleed through as the process unraveled.  I chose to be hopeful and write from a place of joy.  That hope has been realized as I write this message following the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the FIRST Black woman to sit on the United States Supreme Court.

First, I want to congratulate Judge Jackson, her family, and friends.  I cannot imagine how exhilarating it must be to know that you have burst through a concrete ceiling.  Your dedication and hard work have paid off and you are now prepared to sit as a beacon to little Black girls and boys, their parents, grandparents and people everywhere.  You are also a testament to the fact that prayer changes things (and people).

Despite our jubilance, we must acknowledge the fact that it was clear that some Americans were not ready for this historic moment. There were some members of the U.S. Senate and the public who had the audacity to question one of the MOST qualified nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court in its 232-year history—notwithstanding the support that she received from the American Bar Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police and other outside validators.  The ignorance that was displayed during the confirmation hearings knew no bounds.

So now, what do we do?  Do we take this win and forget the “many dangers toils and snares”?  Of course not!  The confirmation hearing of soon-to-be Justice Jackson AND the confirmation hearing of Loretta Lynch should be required learning for Black children.  They must understand why their parents emphasize the importance of being “twice as good” as their counterparts in other races.  But we have to go beyond accepting this unfortunate fact of life and move towards changes.  We must speak out clearly and resolutely against those who would rather promote institutions that subordinate others based on race, class, sex, disability, national origin and any other difference that divides us.  We must rededicate ourselves to leveling the playing field.

In short, the work of the Chicago Urban League and our peer organizations is never done.  I hope that others who have been encouraged by the confirmation of Judge Jackson—but horrified by the open evidence of how far we have to go as a country—will think about what role they can play in giving the next Black woman nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, or the next Black woman to break any concrete barrier, an easier road to travel.