Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson gives us reason to hope

Her confirmation was expected but still a joy to behold.

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Senators Meet With Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson

Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed Thursday as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

So much about Ketanji Brown Jackson’s rise from judge to the first Black woman confirmed to sit on the Supreme Court gave me a burst of hopefulness.

Jackson was confirmed on a 53-47 vote, which means three Republican senators dared to do what was right.

There was no denying that the moment was ripe for change.

After the outbreak of civil unrest following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020, equity, diversity and inclusion have become more than buzz words. 

They became a rallying cry for a new America.

From newsrooms to boardrooms to courtrooms, people in power took a hard look around their circle of influence and saw an America that did not live up to its promises.

When President Joseph Biden promised, if elected, he would name a Black woman to the court’s highest post — a lifetime appointment — it was not only long overdue as a matter of diversity but a reckoning.

We needed more policemen and women who looked like the residents in the neighborhoods they were policing.

We needed more teachers in classrooms teaching students the history that was left out of our history books.

We needed more recognition for the heroes of color who helped build America.

And we needed a criminal justice system that treated all citizens with the same measuring stick.

Still, some of you hated that Biden announced his intentions to put a Black woman on the high court because you felt it opened the door for Republicans to claim he was putting an unqualified judge on the Supreme Court.

But during days of grilling from hostile senators ready to pounce at any missteps, Jackson held onto the dignity that had brought her this far.

And witnesses from every sector testified about her character and preparedness to take on the role of Supreme Court justice.

There was never any genuine concern that Jackson would not be confirmed. But my disappointment is that more Republicans didn’t depart from the party line and vote to ensure a qualified Black woman to the high court.

Really, how much longer could the highest court in the land ignore the glaring lack of diversity and inclusion that so many other groups across America are trying to change?

Vice President Kamala Harris, whose historic election as the first Black and Asian American and first woman to become vice president gave many of us a reason to believe times are a-changing, presided over the historic vote.

But as The New York Times so aptly pointed out, Harris was one of just 11 Black senators in American history.

And in a body of 100 lawmakers, there are only three Black men and no Black women serving in the senate. 

Black women can take special pride in Harris’ and Jackson’s achievements, and young women of color everywhere, especially those practicing law, can celebrate Jackson’s elevation.

But there’s not one Black woman currently serving in the senate.

So while we are grateful that Jackson’s confirmation was not derailed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who urged his members to oppose her nomination, we know this isn’t the end of the partisanship.

Still, today is a day to celebrate what is good about American politics. It took hundreds of years to get to this moment. But we got here.

As Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said at the beginning of the confirmation hearings for Jackson, according to Lynn Sweet, Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief:

“You, Judge Jackson, are one of Mr. Lincoln’s living witnesses of an America that is unafraid of challenge, willing to risk change, and confident of our citizens’ basic goodness. And you are a living witness to the fact that in America, all is possible.”

That is my prayer.

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