On April 7th, 2022, Judge Ketanji Brown was confirmed as the first Black Woman Supreme Court Justice. Judge Ketanji Brown is yet another Black Woman who shatters the glass ceiling imposed on the abilities Black Women. She confidently challenged a system that is actively working against her. There is a trend that accompanies the success of a Black women and that is making space for others to also make their mark. Black Women defy the odds and gracefully elevate themselves. Not only do we demand a seat at the table but pull out more seats for those that come after us to sit as well. As exciting as that day was for me and many others, I cannot help but cringe at how slow our progression is as a country. To me, it is embarrassing that we have yet to see Black people filling up spaces in higher offices. This has everything to do with how the courts were designed because there are Black candidates who are more than competent. During the most recent presidential election, we saw the first Black female Vice President of America. I share the same sentiment of excitement with a side of discontentment because why has it taken us this long to get to this point? Within the year 2022, there are still positions that Black people or more specifically Black Women have yet to be a part of.
Another major aspect of this issue is the pressure and burden that is placed on individuals that are the first of their race or family lineage to do anything. Once you make it to the goal or are in the process there is this expectation to be perfect because everything you do will be scrutinized. Think of it as a huge magnifying glass over you 24/7 and mistakes are never welcomed. This feeling of the world watching you and waiting for you to make a mistake is terrifying to say the least. Many first-generation students, students of color and students from marginalized backgrounds can attest to the overwhelming nature of being the first in the family to pursue higher education or a different career path etc. Like Judge Ketanji Brown, we must navigate through the obstacles and figure things out on our own while there is an enormous amount of pressure placed upon us to succeed. There is limited time to appreciate the journey and celebrate the small wins because we are so focused on getting it right and making our families proud. Our success within our respective fields becomes very personal and this is because it feels like we are practically carrying our entire lineage to this imaginary finish line. Often, we feel like our families have worked hard to get us to this point and we owe it to them. Although our families do not intend to exacerbate the stress we feel, being reminded that you will be the one to break either generational poverty or lack of education is a lot to carry.
To put this idea into perspective, I think about the medical program that I am in and how some of my white counterparts may have doctors within their families, so the expectation and pressure is entirely different. They have sources to reach out to that have gone through the same process. I do not want to minimize their experience, but they are not experiencing the same type of overwhelm or at least experiencing it to the same degree. Being the first in your family or ethnicity to do anything is an exciting and rewarding accomplishment but for students of color it can become a heavy load to bear. Sometimes this burden is not widely acknowledged and it is important we take time to do so. After acknowledging what you are experiencing, the next step is to allow yourself the time and space to understand exactly what you are feeling. Instead of allowing the pressure to consume you, face it head on and remind yourself that you do not have to be perfect… Keep trying until you get to where you need to be. Just a reminder that you are not a failure if things are not working out exactly as you imagined. Although you may have people counting on your success, remember that you are doing your best and with patience you will succeed.