Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Importance in the Supreme Court

For centuries, the experience of white men has guided our laws and policies in the United States. It has defined our democracy. And this remarkable lack of diversity has led to a government that fails to recognize, reflect or represent the people whose perspectives and contributions make this country special.

We’ve seen this everywhere from state legislators to the highest court in the country. In 233 years there have been 115 Supreme Court justices, but there have been only five women and three colored judges. In turn, marginalized communities have been devalued as a result of Supreme Court rulings that fail to recognize their lived experiences.

This is why the four of us – April Reign, Brandi Colander, Kim Tignor and Sabriya Williams – made a long-term commitment in the summer of 2020 to build on the energy of the racial justice protests and activism of that year. From that dedication, #SheWillRise was born, an initiative specifically aimed at increasing the number of black women in the federal judiciary. Inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise,” we knew that for young black girls, like our daughters, seeing someone like them would change history and influence generations to come. Now #SheWillRise represents our shared determination to see the first black woman, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, confirmed on the United States Supreme Court.

April Reign, Sabriya Williams, Kim Tignor and Brandi Colander

Shaughn Cooper

We launched a public information campaign, petition, judicial tracker and national cohort to educate black women about how Supreme Court decisions affect their daily lives and communities, told through the lens of black women. Who sits on the Supreme Court — with their own experiences and their legal acumen — is crucial, and Jackson would add a unique background to the bench. Like Judge Thurgood Marshall, who worked on the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education and became the first black Supreme Court judge, Jackson is the rare Supreme Court nominee to have served as a criminal defense attorney. Her work as a federal public defender has given her first-hand experience defending needy clients, including defending people of color in a system where they are disproportionately underrepresented and over-punished.

As we watch Jackson’s Senate hearings take place this week, we want to be clear: This is the moment we were building towards, and it’s vital that we not only recognize the incredible potential for representation, but that we Using our collective power to educate Black women about why the branch of the federal judiciary matters – how the profound impact of federal judges’ decisions affects their daily lives. Issues arising from overarching societal issues such as policing, drug addiction and health care are all closely tied to the federal judiciary.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Judge Jackson during her Supreme Court nomination hearing on March 21 in Washington, DC.

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It was the Supreme Court—predominantly white and male—that overturned the Voting Rights Act in 2013, disproportionately removing voters of color from voter lists in states across the country. In Georgia, the state that helped determine the 2020 presidential election, polling stations were scrapped, leading to hours of voting queues in black communities. And an increasing number of restrictive voter identification laws have kept voters from coming at all.

Now, next summer, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on a landmark abortion case that could overturn 50 years of precedent under Roe v. Wade, and pose a disproportionate threat to the health, rights and lives of people of color and those on low incomes. who already face additional barriers in accessing abortion. Although Judge Jackson wouldn’t take the bench until later this year, her ability to evaluate and influence these issues in the future could undoubtedly have an inordinate impact on black and brown people.

Southern University Law Center Attends Events Honoring the Confirmation Hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson Students celebrate hearings before Judge Jackson in the nation’s capital.

Leigh VogelGetty Images

As we’ve heard from legal scholars and politicians on both sides of the aisle, Jackson is an immensely qualified and experienced judge. If we don’t urge the Senate to confirm her before the Supreme Court, we will be complicit in the crumbling integrity of our courts. It is imperative to our progress that we continue to strive for equality and equity in our systems and that black women are finally a part of these monumental legal decisions.

We stand up for Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson because black women know that when she stands up, we all stand up.

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