After being sworn in last Thursday, Ketanji Brown Jackson replaced Stephen Breyer as a Democratic associate justice on the Supreme Court. / Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court last Thursday, replacing Stephen Breyer as one of nine justices on the country’s highest federal court.
Not only is Jackson the third Black person and the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, but her unique background and experience as an attorney provide much-needed diversity to an increasingly monolithic court.
After much deliberation and what seemed like interrogation, the Senate confirmed Jackson on a 53-47 vote, with all Democrats voting in favor and all but three Republicans voting against the judge’s appointment. Amidst these hearings, politicians and media outlets alike constantly chattered about President Biden’s first judicial nominee, but only in regard to one aspect – her identity. The public appeared to only care about Jackson’s gender and ethnicity, while senators asked her questions hoping to force out of her answers they would expect from someone of her race and gender.
While representation and diversity are important, especially in regard to those voting on our behalf in government and politics, the public and even those on Capitol Hill seem to have misunderstood what diversity really means, and why it is so crucial within our political system.
Yes, Jackson is a Black woman, but that alone does not make her qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. As the sole justice with experience as a public defender, Jackson’s legal career spans more than two decades, most of which were spent bringing justice to people of various backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences. Her personal experience witnessing her uncle face a life sentence for drug charges motivated her to push for change, pursuing a career in law to amplify and empower those who are often silenced or overlooked in the courtroom.
While some may be turned off by Jackson being a staunchly liberal judge, her progressive leanings, experience in criminal law, and labor-friendly rulings balance out a predominantly conservative court following the Trump administration. Jackson’s introduction to the court provides an opportunity for more voices to be heard and represented, potentially increasing public satisfaction and accurate representation of the people. Moreover, citizens should not celebrate the diminishing of white male voices and accomplishments, but rather the empowerment of cultural and socioeconomic minorities.
While Ketanji Brown Jackson being on the Supreme Court does not necessarily guarantee a better government and world for women and people of color in America, her work and experience certainly assure that the elitists will not always win in the court of law.