We are incredibly proud to recognize Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the newest Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Judge Jackson’s confirmation makes her the first Black woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice, the sixth woman overall, and only the third Black person to serve in history. Her appointment adds another crack in a 233-year glass ceiling for Black Women and opens the door for a new perspective on Supreme Court decisions. However, while Justice Jackson’s appointment is historic, we still have a long road toward racial equity ahead of us. Black women still face tremendous challenges in the workplace and in positions of power.
As we witnessed, Judge Jackson’s confirmation journey required not only perfect qualifications but also tenacity and courage.
Ketanji Brown Jackson is a trailblazing and extraordinarily accomplished judge. She graduated with honors from Harvard University with undergraduate and Law degrees. Justice Jackson has served as an attorney in private practice, as a public defender, and has argued cases in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals DC Circuit. Additionally, she was a law clerk for judges in the U.S. District Court, U.S. Court of appeals, and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. By most accounts, she is one of the most qualified Supreme Court Justices in history and has higher qualifications than many of the current Justices.
In many ways, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation is our generation’s version of Thurgood Marshall’s confirmation. Justice Marshall was the first Black person to serve on the Supreme Court, appointed in 1967 and served until 1991.
However, while Justice Marshall received strong support from the Senate (a vote of 69 to 11) and another groundbreaking woman, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, received an overwhelming vote of confidence (96 to 3), Justice Jackson did not receive the same support. Justice Jackson received a vote of 53 to 47, one of the narrowest votes in American history.
Her confirmation is a blatant example of the severe partisan divide and racial bias that currently exists in Congress. As we saw during her confirmation process, Judge Jackson was subjected to racist, sexist, and outwardly disrespectful questioning and rhetoric. She handled the hearings with the composure consistent with the magnitude of the role she is soon to occupy, and Black people watched with pride as we witnessed greatness in action.
A win for racial justice
In her personal life, she has been a staunch advocate for criminal system reforms, assisting her own uncle in having his sentence reduced for a nonviolent drug offense. Judge Jackson has also been active in the anti-racism movement in education, starting with her own advocacy to attend Harvard University as she was advised to apply to “lesser” schools by her high school counselor. While at Harvard, she also fought against racism and racist behavior from other students.
Justice Jackson’s appointment maintains a 6 to 3 conservative supermajority in the Supreme Court. Regardless, her voice will be instrumental with several major cases coming before the court in the coming months. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization will be one of the most influential women’s rights cases in over 30 years and could affect the monumental Roe v. Wade decision. There are also cases regarding affirmative action, second amendment rights (gun rights), and health care that could fundamentally change how society treats each of these issues.
Power-building by elevating the voice and leadership of women of color
Aimee Allison, Founder & President of She The People, eloquently speaks to our overwhelming feeling of pride: “Today’s confirmation lifts the spirit of so many of us that see ourselves in Justice Jackson. Her grace, qualifications, integrity, and wisdom are a tremendous model for the next generation, those who can fulfill the promise of a strong multiracial democracy.”
Today’s monumental event is a stepping stone to building long-term power and recognizing the crucial leadership of Black women and women of color. We rejoice in Judge Jackson’s tremendous accomplishments and are energized by the work ahead to achieve true racial equity.
What is needed for sustained change is not simply to usher in a new generation of women of color in the highest corridors of power. We must prioritize the power-building work that will position them to redefine the spaces still dominated by systemic racism and sexism. Philanthropy must continue to support the leaders redesigning the political power landscape on behalf of people of color, such as She The People, Fair Fight, Advance Native Political Leadership, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and many others.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is an incredible addition to the Supreme Court, and we wish her success as she begins her term as Supreme Court Justice and a voice of equity and antiracism from within the court. Please join our friends at She The People to sign a card sharing your love and congratulations to Justice Jackson on her momentous confirmation.