By Christine Sloane, YWCA USA
Finally. After more than 200 years, the Supreme Court of the United States is a step closer to being representative of the nation it serves. Today will go down in history as a victory for America, women, and communities of color. However, the fact that it’s taken centuries to nominate and confirm a Black woman to our nation’s highest court is a point of shame for the nation. Nevertheless, regardless of the time it’s taken for us to get here, we are proud to be part of this truly historic moment.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is one of the most qualified nominees to ever come before the Senate. Her judicial record – which includes protecting reproductive health, preserving and defending worker’s rights, and supporting racial, gender, and disability justice – mirrors the values that YWCA fights for every day.
Even before Ketanji Brown Jackson was Judge Jackson, her record as a public defender reflected a personal commitment and dedication to public service and to upholding the core American value that innocence is presumed until proven otherwise. In a criminal justice system that is so heavily skewed by systemic inequalities – especially for people of color – Judge Jackson not only stood up for the fundamental right to representation, she also stood up with her community. First-hand accounts tell us that Judge Jackson brought her all to that role, tangibly demonstrating her belief that every defendant deserves fair representation – regardless of their ability to pay. This fact alone is incredibly powerful. There has not been one justice on the Supreme Court with a significant criminal law background since Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black person to serve on the court retired in 1991. Now, decades later, Judge Jackson is the first justice in the Court’s history to have been a public defender and the first Black woman to assume the position. This background and expertise has been glaringly missing from the Bench, and the importance of those perspectives cannot be understated.
Today will go down in the history books for many reasons: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is not only the newest addition to the Supreme Court, but she is also the sixth woman, fourth person of color, and first Black woman to ever be confirmed to the Supreme Court. Joining the Court is its own remarkable achievement, one that has been afforded to just 115 other people since its inception in 1789. Given the strong threads of racism and sexism woven into the fabric of our nation, her achievement feels even more paramount when reflecting on the incredible hurdles Judge Jackson had to surmount to get where she is today. Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court is not the only place where Black women are grossly under-represented or entirely absent.
Though merit alone should be all that matters, Judge Jackson has had to navigate a profession that is overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male. Recent analysis has found that women of color make up just seven percent of sitting federal judges overall and Black women make up just three percent of all sitting federal judges. Despite being confirmed three previous times with bipartisan support, Judge Jackson faced incredible misogyny and racism during her Senate hearings — another stark reminder of the work we must all participate in to achieve true equality.
Despite all of this, Judge Jackson has modeled grace, professionalism, and acumen for the millions of girls and young women watching her assent with awe and newly found imagination. Through her courage, dedication, and unique perspective, the confirmation of Judge Jackson has rung in a new era of the Supreme Court – one that has taken far too long, but one that is truly monumental. YWCA USA is proud to have advocated for Judge Jackson’s confirmation and we are thrilled to bear witness to this incredibly historic moment.
YWCA USA extends our deepest congratulations to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for her confirmation to the Supreme Court. We look forward to uplifting her legacy as a beacon of hope so that future generations of women, girls, and people of color will know that through hard work and perseverance, in America, anything is possible.