In 2018, when Inimai Manickam Chettiar debated the author and television personality Van Jones on National Public Radio, issues plaguing her since childhood came roaring back. “It was one of my scariest professional moments,” she said. “Public speaking activates all my woman of color, I-don’t-belong-here insecurities.” The man who would help her face them, who happened to be a white Army veteran, is the same man she would soon fall in love with.
He was also her 99th first date.
Ms. Chettiar, 42, is a lawyer and federal director of the Justice Action Network, a group working for criminal justice reform. Her 2018 radio sparring match with Mr. Jones, whose approach to passing criminal justice reform legislation clashed with hers at the time, was the culmination of decades of the work that underpins her identity: After graduating from Georgetown and then receiving a law degree at the University of Chicago, she became the first counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union’s campaign to end mass incarceration, then she created and led a mass incarceration initiative at the Brennan Center for Justice at N.Y.U. law school. By the time she met Kenneth Gerard Wolf Jr., a war veteran, she was accustomed to 80-hour workweeks. She was also within spitting distance of her 40th birthday and considering leaving New York for a city with a new batch of single men who might want to get married and start a family.
Read more at The New York Times