A Step in the Right Direction: What Ketanji Brown Jackson Means for Black America
Updated: Mar 4
We all know that the Supreme Court is the highest court in the nation. Supreme Court Justices are the final arbiters of the law, charged with ensuring that the American people receive the promise of equal justice under the law. Keyword there: equal.
In the 232 years of its existence, the United States Supreme Court has had 115 Justices, 108 of whom have been White Men. Only 2 Justices in history have been Black, only 5 Justices have been women, and never has a Black woman sat on the highest court in the nation. How on earth can we have a court dedicated to the equal treatment of Americans when the court itself is inherently unequal and quite frankly, misogynistic and racist.
However, we are watching history unfold before us as Ketanji Brown Jackson is set to become the 116th Associate Justice, and the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court as she heads to the Senate for her confirmation process. Officially nominated by President Joe Biden on February 25, 2022, Ketanji Brown Jackson is far more than a qualified judge, she is a beacon of hope for a more equitable society.
"Today, as we watch freedom and liberty under attack abroad, I'm here to fulfill my responsibilities under the Constitution, to preserve freedom and liberty here in the United States of America," Biden said at the White House as he introduced Jackson. "For too long, our government, our courts haven't looked like America," Biden said. "I believe it's time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications, and that we inspire all young people to believe that they can one day serve their country at the highest level."
In the history of this nation, Black Women have been disrespected, disregarded, and considered unqualified in nearly every regard — judgments made completely upon race and gender. We see it all the time in corporate America today (unfortunately) when a Black woman is interviewed for a job. There is an attitude of dissent and even pity, undermining accomplishments and saying things like “it’s amazing you’ve done so well for yourself, all things considered”. Or, to bring this to a more personal level, "well Cindi, you have pulled yourself up by the bootstraps, why can't others?" While many in this country might look at these phrases and think the sentiment to be complimentary, sincere and kind, it is the complete opposite.
No doubt, as soon as Ketanji Brown Jackson was even rumored to be nominated, her qualifications came under fire. However, those naysayers were quickly silenced when one looks into her unparalleled career in law and passion for justice. Filling the vacant seat for Justice Stephen Breyer upon his retirement, Ketanji Brown Jackson is a cum laude graduate from Harvard Law School who has served as a public defender, Supreme Court Clerk to Justice Breyer, held the Vice-Chair on the U.S. Sentencing Committee, served as Judge on the U.S. District Court and U.S. Court of Appeals. She is more than qualified for the position she will be taking.
President Biden was widely ridiculed for stating he was going to nominate a Black Woman. Commentators from the far right were outraged, calling it a “misrepresentation of justice”.
Misrepresentation? Let’s talk about representation. The highest court in the nation represents the constitutional rights of every citizen within the nation: Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Gay, Straight, Men, Women, Non-Binary, etc. When you look at the history of the Supreme Court and even the majority of the Supreme Court today, what do you see? Mostly White Men.
Ketanji Brown Jackson is there to uphold the rights of every American, while representing Black Women and Black America, who have historically been marginalized, underrepresented, and disrespected regarding Constitutional rights.
Ketanji Brown Jackson’s own parents grew up with segregation, and the ending fight for equality is at the core of her career, her opinions, and her values.
What is a misrepresentation of justice, is the installation of white men, with far less credentials and experience. When sexual predators take seats of the Supreme Court and when a coward with no intellect lands in the highest office, THAT is a misrepresentation of justice!
As reported by CNN:
”Her opinions are always carefully reasoned, tethered to precedent, and demonstrate respect for how the law impacts everyday people," Biden said. "It doesn't mean she puts her thumb on the scale of justice one way or the other. But she understands the broader impacts of her decisions, whether it's cases addressing the rights of workers or government service. She cares about making sure that our democracy works for the American people. She listens. She looks people in the eye -- lawyers, defendants victims, and families -- and she strives to ensure that everyone understands why she made a decision, what the law is, and what it means to them. She strives to be fair, to get it right, to do justice. That's something all of us should remember. And it's something I've thought about throughout this process.”
Ketanji Brown Jackson is by all measures a legal superstar, yet she serves as far more to the Black community. Ketanji Brown Jackson is hope, she is grace under pressure and she represents equality, change, and progress. She is a positive role model for young Black children to look up to and strive to be. This is what Black America needs. Black America needs strong and powerful Black Women in positions of power that influence a new generation and create a more equitable society. Black girls need role models in law, medicine, business, athletics, and every profession in between.
On one hand, Ketanji’s nomination is allowing all of us to exhale and say, “Finally!”. However, on the other hand, we know this is just one step in moving this country forward, away from misogyny, racism, inequitable opportunities, and treatment of any race who is not white.
A huge step, but still a step.