Meet Ketanji Brown Jackson, The First Black Woman (Hopefully) Nominated to the Supreme Court

Isabella Rodriguez

Recently, Supreme Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement after 27 years of working for the U.S. Supreme Court. President Biden announced in February that he would make sure the next nominee to fill the position is a qualified Black woman. Enter Ketanji Brown Jackson—the first Black female justice to be nominated to serve on the Supreme Court. As of writing this, Judge Jackson has recently completed her confirmation hearings, which involved Judge Jackson sharing details about her experience, both career and personal, to the Senate, which will soon cast their votes and confirm or deny Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black female Supreme Court Justice in U.S history. Because this process is not only revolutionary, but also moving at a steady pace, it’s important to talk about why this nomination is important and what it may mean for the future of the Supreme Court.

The number of responses and media coverage to this news has been large. For those of you who get notifications from news stations on your phones, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about here. Everyone is talking about what Judge Jackson’s nomination will mean for the future of the Supreme Court. And, of course, some Republican senators have already expressed their disapproval. Take Texas Senator Ted Cruz, for example, who labeled Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court “offensive” and “insulting” and claimed that this choice insinuates that the 94% of Americans who aren’t Black women are “ineligible.”

Senator Cruz isn’t the only one with a sour taste in his mouth, either. Republicans have been attacking Judge Jackson’s character and integrity for weeks now. Another example is Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who wrote a tweet addressing the nomination stating, “the radical Left has won President Biden over yet again.” And finally, Senator Josh Hawley, who claimed that Judge Jackson has, “an alarming pattern of letting child predators off the hook for their appalling crimes” in reference to Judge Jackson’s time working on the U.S Sentencing Commission, where Judge Jackson advocated for a drastic change to laws pertaining to sex offenders, writing that they were too punishment heavy – depriving sex offenders of their legal rights through intense restrictions. This was also used to make the claim that Judge Jackson may be “soft on crime.”

Something I want to bring up from Cruz’s argument is this. Not only is the Supreme Court the highest, most important court in the United States, but you need to have a long list of qualifications and experience in order to even be considered for that kind of position. It’s comparable to climbing a mountain for years and finally reaching the summit. And out of every judge who has climbed this mountain, the only people that have made it were white men and women. Biden’s nomination isn’t “discrimination,” it’s fairness. Giving people of color the same platform as white people have had for years would be a significant step in the right direction. 

There are countless black people who have gone out, gotten their education, and were stopped short of achieving their dreams on the grounds of their skin color. There are people of color who have wanted to become doctors, lawyers, journalists, teachers, and scientists, but they have often been shut out of these fields. Some don’t even make it to their dream school because of their skin. They have had the qualifications, the experience, the drive, and ambition. But none of that matters if you’re not white, because the pervasive nature of institutionalized racism excludes non-white people from achieving their dreams. People who share Senator Cruz’s belief that Judge Jackson’s nomination is “unfair” know this, and they know it well. If I had to guess, I would say that they don’t even care if Judge Jackson is qualified or not, all they care about is keeping a “White America” image together for as long as they can. They feel the need to throw as many curveballs at Judge Jackson as possible in order to make dents in her integrity and professional character.

I mentioned earlier that Judge Jackson has proven herself to be fully qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice, and a few of you may be asking, “Okay – well, what are her qualifications?” Well, I can tell you. According to the White House’s official website, Judge Jackson’s career experience includes serving as a Judge on the Court of Appeals for the D.C circuit, the District Court of Colombia, the Vice-chair of the U.S sentencing commission, a Supreme court clerk, and a Public Defender.

That last one is especially important. If elected, not only would Judge Jackson be the first Supreme Court Justice to have experience as a Federal Public Defender in 30 years, but her work as a Public Defender means that she has worked with a wide variety of people who are highly disadvantaged within the legal system. This gives her the kind of unique perspective of the criminal justice system that no other Justice on the current Supreme Court has. This line of work also means that Judge Jackson was staring racial injustice right in the face, with people of color being more likely to be locked up, arrested, or falsely convicted of a crime. This circles back to the key question – what does Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination mean for the supreme court?

It seems obvious now that her time as public defender means the majority of her work has been centered around people, not just numbers or statistics. The hope here is that with Judge Jackson on the court, she may be able to help broaden the Supreme Court’s perspective on the legal and criminal justice system. There may not be any significant changes to existing policies or systems, especially because the court currently has a 6-3 conservative majority. However, it’s undeniable that Judge Jackson will be a very crucial filter in a space that is currently in the white majority. It means that Judge Jackson can provide different conversations and understandings to issues everyone may think they know about, but realize that there is more to it than meets the eye. With her unique perspective, Judge Jackson can and will be a constant reminder for all the justices on the Supreme Court, along with every court system in the United States, to continue learning and never stop. And right now, that reminder could not be more important.