Why Are You Surprised with Judge Victoria Pratt
We are highlighting a previous episode of the ¿Quién Tú Eres? podcast, where we explore the conflict we often face between "professionalism" & being our authentic selves.
Judge Victoria Pratt has gained national and international acclaim for her commitment to reforming the criminal justice system. She spent years gaining a deep understanding of how justice could be delivered to court participants in a manner that increased their trust in the legal system and changed their behavior. Her TED Talk, How Judges Can Show Respect, has been translated into 11 languages, received over one million views and the Facebook clip has received an astounding 21 million views. A fierce advocate committed to reform, Pratt has worked with jurisdictions across the nation. A Professor at Rutgers Law School in Newark, New Jersey, she teaches Problem Solving Justice and Restorative Justice. Pratt is licensed to practice law in both New Jersey and New York, and is admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court. She also facilitates Mountain Movers empowerment sessions to help individuals live their best lives.
In this conversation, Judge Victoria Pratt takes us on a journey through her experience between professionalism and authenticity.
These are some of the episode highlights:
“As the daughter of an African-American garbage collector and Dominican peluquera. This is how I present myself everywhere I go. Standing in this space where I bring my full self, my experiences, my upbringing as the child of a first-generation immigrant. Authenticity means showing up while bringing all of your talents, gifts, and experiences. It is showing up, being seen, and giving your expertise.” -Judge Victoria Pratt
As the child of an immigrant, I have had to learn how to pave my own path. My mother has an eighth grade education and no employment experience besides baby-sitting the working-class’ children. Without the education or the language, I was forced to learn the ways of this country so I may help my mother navigate the welfare system in order for us to survive. Therefore, authenticity means that I show up as the daughter of immigrants that had to grow up too fast for the sake of her family’s survival. I learned how to be a social worker for my community the instant I learned to read English which is what many of us first-generation children have had to do to survive in a place designed to destroy us.
“What I have learned by showing up authentically is that it allows people to come in and show up as their authentic selves. I show up to the world with big hair, a big voice, and big ideas.” -Judge Victoria Pratt
From personal experience, I can attest to the fact that as difficult as it may seem to show up exactly as you are, it is imperative to do so or at least attempt to. Not only does one feel more confident in oneself but also, others notice that confidence and either compliment you on it or they are left inspired to want to emulate that confidence as well.
Like Judge Pratt, I too, show up with big hair and a big voice but that wasn’t always the case because
1.) I still didn’t know who I was, 2.) Growing up, I always wanted to be just like my friends or have what they had, and 3.) I was afraid that my “self” would be rejected, or worse, ridiculed.
“The expectations for la negrita of the family weren’t high because the value of intelligence was equated with skin complexion. As a result and after being inspired by Oprah, I became an honor roll student for the rest of my career. After being admitted into law school, my aunt bawled her eyes out because it meant that a negrita would be the one to bring a law license to the family. -Judge Victoria Pratt
As the first born and the negrita of the family myself, I always felt this innate desire or need to obtain an education for the betterment of my family. I took it upon myself to be the first to graduate college in order to provide for my family and also, to make them proud. In order to be the first at many things and to prove to later generations that we don't have to live the same hard lives our predecessors did. I just always wanted to prove that we could achieve anything we pursued wholeheartedly especially if we didn’t want to be stuck repeating the same cycle.
“It takes time to build your authenticity especially in a place where you feel excluded from. It also takes time to find a place but it is important to show up as you are.” -Judge Victoria Pratt
It could be difficult to choose authenticity over approval or to show up exactly as you feel inside due to fears of criticism or judgment. Especially when you’re criticized for the color of your skin or even your hair type. It’s difficult to go against the norm because everyone is just following suit. No one ever wants to be the black sheep but authenticity means that the sheep has to choose what battle she’s willing to fight.
As a black sheep I’ve had to learn that the only way to feel fulfilled and at peace is to step out into the world exactly as I feel on the inside. So, I can understand when Judge Pratt says that it takes time, because it truly does take time to unlearn what our cultures imposed on us but also what society as a whole has taught us. And although it takes time, once you’ve found yourself, you learn that no one can take that away from you and that’s where the power lies.
Judge Pratt is inspiring to change the narrative around professionalism. Make sure to connect with Judge Victoria Pratt on Instagram @judgevpratt1.
Listen to this episode to learn more about her journey: Spotify & Apple Podcasts
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