The nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson mirrors many of the experiences of minorities in this country — it brings hope wrought with controversy that is rooted in racism. Hope because a promise was kept when the US President nominated the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court and controversy because the nomination devolved into a display of racism, partisanship and a deplorable lack of dignity by certain members of the committee during her confirmation process.
Our Alaska Native peoples are very familiar with this dichotomy of excitement that is almost immediately smothered by those uncomfortable with any change toward an equitable future. Our people have watched with both hope and dismay as promises have been kept and forgotten; trust has been built and then torn back apart. Many times, this has happened in our local, state, and federal courts, and a few times, even recently, at the Supreme Court. In fact, as Alaska Natives we know just how critical this is because we do not currently have any Alaska Native people serving as judges in the entire Alaska State Court System. And because we feel this inequity every day, we know why the highest court in the United States must reflect the people it presumes serve – it is in fact a tenet of this country’s democracy and this bench plays an important role in enacting this representation. We must embrace this opportunity to have the amazing mind and voice of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on the U.S. Supreme Court because she has a commitment to jurisprudence, exceeds all the necessary criteria and deeply understands the dichotomy and yet persists to fight for what is right for our country.
As a person of color and as a woman, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has lived the experience of having to work harder and endure more just to be on a level playing field. We know that despite enormous early educational achievements, her high school guidance counselor advised her to “not set her ‘sites so high” when she expressed her desire to apply to Harvard Law School. Thank goodness this did not dissuade her. She went on to Harvard, has served on the federal bench, which is already quite an achievement, and now she is poised to be confirmed for a lifetime seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. She did this by building an impeccable resume and reputation despite the voices and systems of power that try to hold her back.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has the education and experience that the job requires with more than a decade serving on a federal bench, a clerkship with a U.S. district court and a U.S. court of appeals. She brings a diversity of professional experience with her work in criminal defense, which the Supreme Court lost when Justice Thurgood Marshall retired more than 30 years ago. Personally, she brings strengths, integrity, and grace under pressure. These are the qualities that we need in a person whose decisions will shape the lives of generations to come.
She has more than shown over her lifetime that she is the US Supreme Court Justice our country needs right now. We ask our congressional representatives take this historic moment and use it not to diminish this country by holding back an incredible American from serving her country but rather to strengthen it by appointing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. As Alaska Native women, we stand in support of her confirmation.
• Jaeleen Kaa Ju Hein Kookesh (Tlingit/Athabascan – Angoon), Sarah Aan Shaawátk’I Dybdahl (Tlingit/Nimiipu – Klawock), Rosita Kaaháani Worl, Ph.D. (Tlingit – Juneau), Gianna Saanuga Willard (Haida – Ketchikan), Gloria Ilsxilee Stang Churchill Burns (Haida – Ketchikan), Alana Peterson (Tlingit – Sitka), Heather L’geiki Powell (Tlingit/Ojibwe – Hoonah), Louise Brady (Tlingit – Sitka), Dawn Kaaxwáan Jackson (Haida/Tlingit – Kake), Marina Anderson (Haida/Tlingit – Craig), Barbara ‘Wáahlaal Gíidaak Blake (Haida, Tlingit, Ahtna – Juneau), Elizabeth La quen náay Medicine Crow (Haida/Tlingit – Kake), Nicole ch’aak tlaa Hallingstad (Tlingit – Petersburg) and Jacqueline Kus.een Pata (Tlingit – Juneau).