Updated: Mar 31, 2022
History in the making
The Hon. Ketanji Brown Jackson (KBJ) is poised to make history as the first African American woman on the Supreme Court. Let it not go unsaid that since its first sitting in February 1790, of the 115 justices who have served at the Court, 110 (95.7%) have been men, and all but seven of them have been white men. Two (0.017%) have been black men (Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas), and four (0.035%) have been women: Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Amy Coney Barrett (after the death of Ginsburgh), but there has never been a black woman. The Supreme Court has largely been the territory of white males, who typically don’t like sharing privilege with people who don’t look like them.
After President Biden nominated Judge KBJ, an outcry rose in some senatorial circles that “the president shouldn’t be considering race as a criterion for nomination to the Court.” The source of this pedantic objection? White men. The laughable irony of this statement was apparently lost on them: What, if anything, has the Supreme Court been but a twisted affirmative action program for white men? So, yes, this is a nomination of huge herstorical importance in the United States.
Diversity is important
When confirmed, Judge KBJ will come to the SCOTUS with some of the same qualifications of the other justices: she graduated (magna cum laude) from Harvard Law, as did Breyer, Roberts, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch, while Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor and Brett Kavanaugh studied at Yale. However, she is the only judge among them to have served as a public defender. That experience gives her a broader outlook on not only the American justice system, but the injustice system. Writes Laura Coates, a former prosecutor, "Public defenders are not soft on crime — they are hard on injustice. In a country where race and bias are far too frequently elevated above fairnesenders are the welcome foil to balance the system.”
It’s true that Jackson won’t significantly tip the 6-3 conservative-progressive imbalance on the Court, but think of the effect her assenting and dissenting opinions will have on people’s thinking. It could be a subtle shift, but one of a kind never seen by SCOTUS before, regardless of the Court makeup.
Equanimity under duress
If you weren’t able to catch Judge-soon-to-be-Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, then you missed a master class in how to hold one’s position in the face of enemy fire. To use a regrettable analogy, the mostly white Senators of the Judiciary Committee are Russia, and the KBJ is Ukraine.
The likes of Josh “Hypocrite" Hawley and Lindsay “Grandstand" Graham launched missiles at KBJ that either missed their target or were shot down by KBJ herself or by Democratic members attending the hearing.
The MO of the Republicans was to set up a false-flag operation--the assertion that KBJ is “soft on crime” and has too much “empathy” for child pornographers. The basis of the accusation is the claim that the judge has historically displayed “a consistent pattern of giving child porn offenders lighter sentences,” as Sen. Marsha Blackburn said. But some fact-checking shows that this is not accurate. Jackson’s sentences in five of the seven cases mentioned by Hawley were consistent with, or above, probation’s recommendation. In two, Jackson’s sentences were below the government and probation’s recommendations. Hawley conveniently left out another seven cases KBJ sat on, in two of which her sentences were consistent with the prosecutors’ plea agreements.
But let’s not get distracted by the details. These odious, bloviating men were making an accusation and forming an opinion based on a false or unproven premise. If they had queries about Jackson's sentencing “methodology” (her word), then ask her without presupposing a notion which, on its face, is highly unlikely. After all, KBJ is a mother, she has two daughters, and she asserted this clearly during the hearing. Members of the American Bar Association (ABA) panel that investigated Judge KBJ's legal record rejected GOP claims that she has been soft on child pornography offenders.
Compared to the self-centered, entitled antics of then-nominee Brett Cavanaugh, played brilliantly by Matt Damon in a must-see skit on SNL, KBJ was as serene as a clear-water stream in a verdant forest.
Up against Jackson, Ted Cruz looked like a clown (my apologies to professional clowns), particularly with his absurd posters.
Judging from the looks on some of Jackson’s attackers, particularly frat-boy Josh Hawley, it’s quite possible they were having difficult time following Jackson's reasoning, because, well, she's probably a lot brighter than they are. I liken it to an amateur tennis player lobbing a ball to Rafael Nadal and not even seeing the return for its blistering speed.
None of these white males know what it’s like to be constantly doubted as a black woman, constantly having to excel beyond what is conventionally required of white men, and shrug off the slights directed at her every day.
The bottom line: in the battle of boorishness and ignorance against steadiness of character and courage of conviction, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was victorious.