Call her justice: Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic moment delivers a message all Americans should celebrate
OPINION: The well-deserved and long-overdue seating of a Black woman on the Supreme Court makes an important statement: The doors to the American Dream are open to all.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
At last! After 233 years, a Black woman has finally joined the U.S. Supreme Court, with the swearing-in of Ketanji Brown Jackson as an associate justice to replace the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.
After Justice Jackson took the traditional two oaths, she took her seat on the highest court in the United States with more impressive qualifications and more judicial experience than most of the 115 justices who preceded her—108 white men, two Black men, four white women and one Hispanic woman.
Justice Jackson has spent the past year as a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, after earlier serving for eight years as a U.S. District Judge in Washington. She has more experience as a judge than four of the current justices combined had when they joined the Supreme Court.
A Harvard Law School graduate, Jackson was a lawyer in private practice, worked as a public defender, was a law clerk for Justice Breyer and served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission earlier in her career.
While some U.S. senators and others tried to raise questions about Jackson’s stellar qualifications or tarnish a distinguished career of service, Black women and others rallied to her side because we know what it takes to even get in the room and fight for a seat at the table. So let me simply say that Black women—indeed the majority of American women—should be joyful right now.
As Black women, we know all too well that we have to work harder and perform better than others to get in the door, get a seat at the table, or even more uncommon, a job promotion. We’ve had to crash through two glass ceilings—make that two brick walls—of both race and gender to advance.
We’ve been underestimated, marginalized and demeaned since time immemorial. But we refuse to be stopped. Like the late great Rosa Parks, who refused to move to the back of the bus, we will not be pushed back from our rightful place in our beloved country.
By any objective standard, Jackson’s nomination and confirmation came at the right time. It came as the rising seas of despair coincided with the dreadful stripping of rights and liberties gained from centuries of struggle and sacrifices. So when President Joe Biden made a commitment to place a Black woman on the bench, Black women got to work to call on the U.S. Senate to give her a fair process and to firmly back her during the confirmation hearings.
Now, as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, she brings a wealth of experience as one who grew up with both full voting rights and reproductive rights. We pray that she can help to restore some grace, some legal way to ensure that Black women, like all other Americans, will be seen and understood before the highest court in the land.
In overturning Roe v. Wade—the historic Supreme Court decision that allowed women to choose whether to have a child—the court went too far. In many states, women have now lost the right to control their own bodies, as if they were enslaved. The Supreme Court has placed American women into a time machine, going backwards nearly 50 years. For the first time in American history, the court is taking away a constitutional right instead of expanding rights. It’s scary to think about what other constitutional rights these right-wing extremist activist judges will want to take away next. After all, Justice Clarence Thomas threatened to go even further, rolling back the right to use contraceptives and canceling LGBTQ rights. So far, the other conservative justices aren’t going this far, but who knows what they’ll try next.
Unfortunately, Justice Jackson’s appointment won’t change the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court. The radical right will remain firmly in control of the nine-member court, but with Jackson’s appointment, the Supreme Court will for the first time have two Black justices (including Thomas) and four women justices (including Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett) serving at the same time. That’s important progress.
Finally, each justice brings important insights based on life experiences to the Supreme Court. Adding the perspective of a Black woman will help her fellow justices better understand the impact of systemic racism and sexism on American society.
At 51, Jackson is likely to have decades of service ahead of her on the high court and has the potential to become one of the finest justices in American history. She is a brilliant jurist with unsurpassed integrity and our nation is lucky to have her take up her important new role.
The well-deserved and long-overdue seating of this Black woman on the Supreme Court makes an important statement: The doors to the American Dream are open to all, and the DO NOT ENTER sign facing Black women has been at long last been ripped to shreds.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said in 1968: “We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Today that justice has a name—Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. At last!
Donna Brazile is an ABC News Contributor, veteran political strategist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, and the King Endowed Chair in Public Policy at Howard University. She previously served as interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute. She managed the Gore campaign in 2000 and has lectured at more than 225 colleges and universities on race, diversity, women, leadership and restoring civility in politics. Brazile is the author of several books, including the New York Times’ bestseller “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.” @DonnaBrazile.
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