Advertisement
Columnists

Michelle Deal-Zimmerman: Black women don’t know that their place in America is not on the U.S. Supreme Court | COMMENTARY

FILE - In this Feb. 22, 1956, file photo, Rosa Parks is fingerprinted by police Lt. D.H. Lackey in Montgomery, Ala., two months after refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger on Dec. 1, 1955. She was arrested with several others who violated segregation laws. Parks' refusal to give up her seat led to a boycott of buses by Black Americans in December 1955, a tactic organized by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which ended after the U.S. Supreme Court deemed that all segregation was unlawful on Dec. 20, 1956.

I asked my husband what he likes about Black women.

Like anyone married for a certain number of years, he quickly acquired a calculating look, the kind that says “how is this going to be used against me in a court of law presided over by my wife who never forgets a word I say?”

Advertisement

He stared intently at his iPhone, pretending not to hear the question. A tactic that at this point he must know is futile.

I asked again.

Advertisement

This time I smiled, somewhat sweetly. A tactic I should know will only get me so far.

You see, by now my husband Todd must be an expert in Black women. He’s white, so he hasn’t had the benefit of being born to the culture. Everything he knows about Black women he has learned as an adult from the outside in.

From my grandmother to my mom to my sisters to aunts, cousins, friends and more, he knows and has known a lot of Black women. I’m sure he knew Black women before we met but there’s knowing — and then there’s knowing.

My grandmother let him help her in the kitchen — and only him. The rest of us could stay out of the way until dinner was ready. Or else. He was also her favorite to take a plate to the neighbors. “Bessie, this is my grandson Todd, and he fixed you a plate.” Soon enough he and Miss Bessie would be fast friends, and her plate would get bigger and bigger. He’s taken my mom shopping to store after store when I couldn’t possibly look at another TJMaxx. He defended my sister’s love of the Strawberry Shortcake character, when honestly, there is no defense.

Todd has connected to Black women at church and at work, at weddings and at funerals, pretty much everywhere he goes there are Black women. While none of us is alike, maybe he has sussed a common thread.

Something that could be shared with, I don’t know, maybe Ted Cruz. Or Roger Wicker. Or any of the other white Republican men in the Senate who have had the ultimate freakout over President Biden’s pledge to nominate the first Black woman jurist to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many people, myself included, think it’s about time. A lot of other people don’t seem to think so.

Sen. Cruz, of Texas, has said the promise is “offensive” and “actually an insult to Black women.” He’s right, but the insult is that it’s taken this long.

Advertisement

Sen. Wicker, of Mississippi, said the eventual nominee would be a “beneficiary” of an affirmative action “quota.” In the 232-year history of the Supreme Court, only seven nominees have not been white men. Exactly who benefits from that quota?

Yet in a recent Yahoo News/YouGov survey, the majority of Americans said having a Black woman on the nation’s highest court was “not very important.” (When I consider the list of things this country seems to view as “not very important,” from universal health care to voting rights protections, I realize not very important may actually mean quite the opposite.)

It’s all enough to put a dent in one’s self-esteem, that is, if you weren’t already a Black woman accustomed to being overlooked and underestimated. So much so that an entire meme has been created around the idea that your everyday survival is “Black girl magic.” Because it takes a lot of sparkle and sleight of hand to keep going when everyone around you would rather you stay in your place.

And that’s something Black women have always had a difficult time doing, from Harriet Tubman to Rosa Parks to Angela Davis to Kamala Harris.

We don’t know our place because in America it doesn’t exist. We have created it ourselves from guts and glory and tears and triumphs. In doing so, we have decided our place is everywhere. And the limitations thrust upon us by generations of white men, and even some Black men, are just not very important to us.

The front of the bus. The vice presidency. Even the highest court in the land. There is a place for us or we will make one.

Advertisement

Fearless is the word my husband finally came up with, but that’s not why he likes Black women. Todd said he likes that we are not afraid to be ourselves in every situation.

He also likes that we compliment his cooking no matter what he makes, but that’s a different conversation for another day.

Michelle Deal-Zimmerman is senior content editor for features and an advisory member of The Sun’s Editorial Board. Her column runs every fourth Wednesday. She can be reached at nzimmerman@baltsun.com.


Advertisement