For the first time, the U.S. Supreme Court is in session with a Black woman on the bench. Unfortunately, the docket of cases that Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson will vote on could wind up making the country a much more perilous place for Black folks to live.
That’s because conservatives’ generation-long effort to remake the country by stacking its highest court was only the first part of a broader strategy. Having six out of nine Supreme Court justices agree with a regressive agenda on voting rights, women’s reproductive rights, immigration, taxes and the environment isn’t worth much, after all, without those justices having cases to rule on that could have a major impact on how the law sees those topics.
With that in mind, the court this term will decide how much power the Environmental Protection Agency has to regulate pollution in waterways—just as Black communities around the country are experiencing climate-related water crises at a growing rate. Oral arguments in that case began today.
In another case, it will decide whether to ban colleges and universities from having Affirmative Action admissions policies designed to make sure nonwhite students have a fair shot at getting into the most exclusive schools.
The justices will make two decisions that could have devastating impacts on Black voters. In the first case, Alabama Republicans are challenging a state court decision that to toss out a voting map that intentionally corralled most of the state’s Black voters into one district, diluting their ability to have more congressional representation. The second case involves North Carolina Republican state lawmakers also challenging a state court ruling. They want SCOTUS to uphold something called the independent state legislature doctrine—basically a states’ rights argument on steroids that holds that not even a state’s supreme court has the power to stop the state legislature from making voting rules.
With conservatives firmly in control of the court and showing by their decisions in the last term on abortion rights and the ability of states to enact gun control, it might be too late for the historic new justice to help keep her right-leaning colleagues from turning back to the clock even further.