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The Impact of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson

Photo by Clarice Bajkowski for The 19th

“When I was born here in Washington [D.C.] my parents were public school teachers, and to express both pride in their heritage and hope for the future, they gave me an African name, Ketanji Onyika, which they were told means ‘lovely one.’ My parents taught me that, unlike the many barriers that they had had to face growing up, my path was clearer, so that if I worked hard and believed in myself, in America, I could do anything or be anything I wanted to be.”

-Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson in her Senate Confirmation Hearing Opening Statement

Despite her over qualification for a Supreme Court position in comparison to her now fellow justices, Ketanji Brown Jackson endured a brutal trial full of ignorant remarks and accusations on behalf of the Republican Party. However, Justice Jackson firmly held her ground and became the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States of America. But, her impact on Black women across the nation reaches even farther.

Her Qualifications

Photo by Adrian Blanco and Shelly Tan for The Washington Post

When comparing Justice Jackson’s law experience and education with that of the other current justices, she earned her spot more than any other. Like many others, Jackson attended an Ivy League law school, served as a SCOTUS Clerk, and served on the Court of Appeals. However, along with being one of few current justices to attend a public high school and serve on the Sentencing Commission and a District Court, Justice Jackson is the only current justice to have served as a Public Defender. These connections to the general public are signs of a justice to which average people, especially minority women, can relate.

Her Authenticity

During her Senate Confirmation Hearing, Jackson showed both emotion and strength. These displays of authenticity reveal a Black woman in today’s America who has fought for her place at the table and demands a seat. Despite the idiocracy and microaggressions, Justice Jackson faced during her hearing, she remained poised and displayed confidence in her knowledge and abilities. It wasn’t until Black New Jersey Senator Cory Booker expressed the following:

“When I look at you, this is why I get emotional. I’m sorry. You are a person that is so much more than your race or your gender. You’re a Christian. You’re a mom. You’re an intellect. You love books. But for me, I’m sorry. It’s hard for me to look at you and not see my mom, not to see my cousins, one of them who had to come and sit behind you. She had to have your back. I see my ancestors and yours… You have earned this spot. You are worthy…”

Her Impact

Many Black women involved in law and politics have expressed their feelings of newfound hope for people like them to succeed in today's America.

"[It is] extremely inspirational to see someone who looks like me, a Supreme Court Justice," said a young Black attorney for the Legal Aid Society, Denita Jones. "She's paved the way so that anyone, no matter what your color, no matter what your gender, know that they can become a Supreme Court Justice, and I think that is important."

Justice Jackson's Confirmation is a symbolic and historic moment in our society. Jackson represents all Black women– past, present, and future. Representation is such a huge part of our democracy and country as a whole and for Black Women to finally have this is something so monumental yet so overdue.

"I have a daughter who is 17 and is interested in pursuing a career in law and it [Justice Jackson's confirmation] makes me very hopeful for her future," Melva Harris Rozier, Senior Staff Attorney for the Legal Aid Society said.

"America is changing how it views race and how it views women in the legal profession," Said Denise Mutamba, President of the F. Malcolm Cunningham, Sr. Bar Association. "...I'm especially excited that she's a Black woman because she brings that special experience to the bench."

Diversity in experience and perspective is another key factor in shaping the democracy minority Americans deserve. With Justice Jackson's Confirmation, we are moving in the right direction.

"She's relatable," says Supervising Attorney for the Legal Aid Society, Tequisha Myles. "...This is the first time, in 2022, that we have an opportunity to put someone on the Supreme Court that looks like a big selection of our nation and I think it [lets] young girls, young women in college, young women in law school know that they can do anything they set their mind to."

While Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson's nomination and Senate Confirmation were monumental in themselves, we hope her service will prove to be an even greater stride for Black people, especially women, in America.

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