Opinion: Ketanji Brown Jackson, the New Supreme Court Associate Justice


Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was officially sworn in to the U.S. Supreme Court on June 30, 2022. ©Canva

Gabriella Evans, Multimedia & Design Editor

On February 25, 2022, President Joe Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson as the 116th Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, following the announcement of Justice Stephen Breyer’s intentions to retire from the court. 

This nomination by the President has caused a spark to be ignited within the African American community, especially among young black women who are working hard to pursue their own careers, otherwise known as “black girl magic.”

But what happens when the rest of the world does not want to acknowledge your gifts, talents, and education that places you above their number one choice?

Although it is clear that Judge Jackson has worked hard to become the 116th Associate Justice, there were many senators within the hearing that presented themselves in a light that showed that they could not handle a black woman being more qualified than them while being a nominee for the highest court in the land.

But throughout it all, there were other senators that were giving words of encouragement and sincerity. 

Senator Cory Booker stated that he could relate to Jackson’s upbringing. The New Jersey politician, who comes from a strong Christian faith and an emphasis on education, stated to Jackson that “…when I look at you…you’re a person that is so much more than your race and gender.”

He then gives the example of the women from the film Hidden Figures, who were scientists for NASA in the 1930s. Not only did the women do a whole lot of work for the company, but they also gave back towards the country. The similarity in the story of the ladies from Hidden Figures and Judge Jackson is that they were both in a position where they loved their country, but yet their country “didn’t love them back.”

However, Booker was not the only person to have a say in the treatment that Jackson received from Republican Senators. 

Comments such as “what we saw today was an attempt to assail the character of Ketanji Brown Jackson, because her record is so wholly unassailable” and “would they be asking these questions if this were not a black woman?” came up. 

And the answer to the second question would be absolutely not. 

Under the Trump administration, three justices were appointed; Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. The hearings of these three justices were nowhere near as patronizing as it was for Jackson, despite the fact that they are the true ones who deserved a more in-depth and harsher hearing.

As an African American woman who is pursuing a degree in higher education to enter the field of politics, it is very important to understand not only the tactics that were presented within the hearing, but the reaction from Jackson after certain attacks were made against her character in this situation. The questions should have been directed in the area of her qualifications for the job, not her previous sentencing in select cases. 

I commend Judge Jackson for her response to Republican Senator Josh Hawley when he decided to focus the majority of his time discussing previous sentences instead of how her experience made her qualified for the Supreme Court. After numerous rounds of questioning, Jackson responded with the following: “Senator, what I regret is that in a hearing about my qualifications to be a justice on the Supreme Court, we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on this small subset of my sentences.”

Because Judge Jackson did not lash out and give snarky answers to the committee, she not only planted a seed within the minds of millions of black women, she also did it across the world as well.

To every single Black woman, let us use the actions of the Republican Senators and the responses of Judge Jackson as a reminder that even in situations where we are the most qualified individual for the position, there are going to be people that are going to try and make it impossible for us to succeed. 

As Maya Angelou stated in her poem Still I Rise, “You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies. You may trod me in the very dirt, but still like dust, I’ll rise,” for there is no one on this earth that has the authority to limit the power and prosperity that has been placed upon us. Whether you are wanting to become a lawyer or engineer, you were called to fulfill that calling for a reason, so own it.

Judge Jackson was officially sworn into office on June 30th by the retiring Breyer at the Supreme Court Building, gaining the official title of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, continuing down the path that she has prepared herself for many years.