MSNBC panel: First black female Harvard president, Ketanji Brown Jackson have been ‘set up to fail’

As if any further evidence is needed that diversity-obsessed activists will never be satisfied, an MSNBC host and her two guests found reason to be unhappy about the historic firsts of two black women who were elevated to the pinnacle of their professions, suggesting that new Harvard University President Claudine Gay and Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson have already been undermined by a system of oppression that has set them up for failure.

On Saturday’s edition of the “The Mehdi Hasan Show,” a segment was devoted to the so-called “glass cliff,” a theory that women who achieve leadership roles often are allowed to do so during times of crisis and as a result, the increased chance that they will fail has already been pre-baked into the cake.

Filling in for the show’s namesake, guest host Melissa Murray welcomed Fatima Goss Graves who heads up the National Women’s Law Center, and Christy Glass, a Utah State University sociology professor to engage in a discussion of why the groundbreaking appointment of Gay at the prestigious Ivy League institution of learning as well as Jackson’s ascension to the nation’s highest court may not actually be good things.

(Video: MSNBC)

“History is being made at Harvard. The Ivy League university named its 30th president last week, and the honor went to political scientist Claudine Gay who currently serves as the dean of Harvard’s faculty of arts and sciences. She’s set to become only the second woman to lead Harvard, and the first person of color to serve in that role in the school’s nearly 400-year history,” noting how it is a “remarkable” achievement considering the institution’s racist past.

“Well, it is certainly a well-deserved honor, but, and there is a big but to this story, President Gay will take over at Harvard next July, right around the same time that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn the university’s long-standing race-conscious admissions policy,” she added. “This means that Claudine Gay will likely be stepping into a huge legal and political mess as soon as she’s sworn in. Now, I feel this so acutely. In 2016, I became the interim dean at Berkeley law after a major sexual harassment scandal. It was obviously an amazing career opportunity for me, but it was also amazingly fraught with career risks, and I know I’m not alone.”

“For a lot of women, and especially women of color, Claudine Gay’s landmark appointment feels a little bit like another case of women getting a much-deserved leadership opportunity, but only in times when their institutions are undergoing some kind of profound crisis,” Murray continued. “You’ve obviously heard of the glass ceiling. Well, this is a little bit like a glass cliff. The idea that women get a better chance of breaking through that ceiling only when someone is needed to clean up an intractable mess. The danger, of course, is that in cleaning up the mess, you run the risk of falling off the cliff.”

Glass then opined, “White women, and women of color, and men of color as well, tend to be appointed CEO, or head coach, to losing teams or to organizations in crisis. And what we also find is that they’re often blamed for the crisis that was not of their making, that predated their leadership trajectory, and held to account for the crisis.”

“This feels like a really vicious feedback loop where women are essentially set up to fail and, when they do fail, critics say, see, should have never had a woman. That’s affirmative action at work,” Murray responded. “We know this phenomenon in real life. We have a sitting member of the Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, who herself faces a sort of glass cliff situation. She’s the first woman of color, the first black woman, rather, to serve on the high court. But she comes on to the Court just as a conservative super-majority is chipping away at civil rights.”

Later in the segment, Goss Graves said, “You know, the irony that she joined the Court in the wake of Dobbs, during the arguments for the affirmative action cases, the cases before the court on voting, on LGBTQ equality, and more.”

“And in many ways she’s sort of a singular voice around blackness on the Court right now. It is a burden that no human can bear . . .,” she added. “It’s too much for any singular person’s shoulders, but it is exciting to see nonetheless, I have to say.”

Chris Donaldson


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