Editorial: Finally, a Black woman has a place on the Supreme Court bench
The confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson as a justice of the Supreme Court is a moment to exult in as a nation. Jackson is the first Black woman to be appointed to that bench, and only the third Black justice and sixth woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
The idea of a Black woman being confirmed as a Supreme Court justice in a Senate chamber presided over by another Black woman as vice president of the United States went from being just a dream of a much better day in a racially evolved nation to being a reality on Thursday. When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the night before he was assassinated, told an audience he had been to the mountaintop and seen the promised land, could even he have foreseen this day?
In her confirmation hearing, Jackson, her voice breaking, told a story of walking through Harvard Yard, so unsure of herself as a freshman at Harvard University. She said the worry must have shown on her face, because a Black woman she didn’t know said, “Persevere, ” as she passed. And she did, becoming a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer — the retiring justice whose place she will take — and eventually rising to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and now the Supreme Court. And she counsels young people to follow that advice — as she and so many before her persisted in the face of public hostility and private doubts.
Ketanji Brown Jackson’s experience as a criminal defense lawyer and her many years on the trial bench make her an ideal nominee to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Republican senators will try to use those assets against her in order to promote their own political interests.
Her perseverance and brilliance were on display during her confirmation hearing, in which Republican senators grandstanded, asked her absurd questions, distorted her record on sentencing criminals as a trial judge and occasionally only patronized her.
She endured it all with grace and a mastery of the law that will no doubt hold her in good stead in debates with her fellow justices — six of whom are so conservative they have let stand a ridiculous Texas law that allows people to sue anyone who helps a woman get an otherwise legal abortion.
As groundbreaking as her confirmation is, the present-day era is not as racially, sexually and politically evolved as it should be, and the process she endured shows it. How despicably partisan and unjustified it was for 47 Republicans — some lawyers themselves — to vote against the nomination of such an extraordinarily qualified candidate. Yet, given the politics of the moment, we were reduced to being heartened that all 50 members of the Democratic Caucus and three Republicans in the Senate did vote to confirm her. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) released a statement saying he didn’t expect to always agree with Jackson, but found her to be a “well-qualified jurist and a person of honor.”
Editorial: On Biden’s promise to appoint the first Black woman to the Supreme Court: It’s about time
There are many Black women who are highly qualified for the Supreme Court, which, with only two Black justices ever, fails to reflect all of America.
Jackson will also take her seat on a bench seemingly, unfathomably, poised to dismantle Roe vs. Wade, the ruling that has guaranteed women the right to a legal abortion, allowing them autonomy over their bodies, for nearly half a century.
That’s a tough room. And we can’t wait to see Jackson on her first day at work.
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