After the dust settled from Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement announcement, reminding all that President Biden pledged to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court , I figured there would be some pushback. In the Supreme Court’s 231 year history, only three Supreme Court judges have been Black or Latinx. Despite these courts not reflecting the communities over which they preside, some representatives would like to keep the status quo exactly where it is–especially when it comes to letting highly qualified Black women into that system.
As the names of potential Black women nominees came, so did the hot takes from the white male Senate peanut gallery. First, from Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), who represents a state that has a 38% percent Black population. As noted by Newsweek:
“I hope it’s at least someone who will at least not misrepresent the facts,” he said. “I think they will misinterpret the law.”
He later added that he believes the nominee will be a “beneficiary” of affirmative action.
“The irony is that the Supreme Court is at the very time hearing cases about this sort of affirmative racial discrimination while adding someone who is the beneficiary of this sort of quota,” he said.
If Senator Wicker wants to talk about affirmative action, let’s not forget he had no problem supporting Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court last year —talk about a beneficiary. It has been shown that white women have excelled in affirmative action measures. So, who gained the most?
Now let’s take a look at potential Supreme Court pick, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Judge Jackson attended Harvard University for college and law school and clerked for Justice Breyer at the start of her career. When President Biden picked her for the D.C. Circuit, she gained three Republican votes and was also looked at as a non-partisan judge.
Still, there are folks like the Cancun-going Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz – who claimed Biden’s commitment was an “insult to Black women.”
Well, first of all, he’s wrong. Black women make up 12.9% of the female U.S. population, 7.4 percent of the total U.S. population, and only 1.8% of Black women have ever served as federal judges. That’s the insult. This is the doublespeak that Black women have heard in boardrooms, job interviews, and performance reviews around the country. Cruz’s outcry over one seat is telling.
Lastly, there’s Senator John Cornyn, who put out a statement asking Biden to not give in to the “radical left:”
“Of course, there is another path, one that was cleared and paved by the radical left. The President could listen to the liberal activists who want to select somebody who will deliver partisan wins regardless of the facts. He could nominate someone who would attempt to use the position on the Supreme Court to rule based on personal policies or preferences rather than what the law commands that a justice do.”
Again, if we look at the decisions of Judge Jackson, she’s been a swing vote in some cases earlier in her career – even siding with more conservative judges. Cornyn’s assumption is based on very little.
These comments are converging points to sow dissent. The implication is Black women are incapable of thinking for themselves, that they are only put there for diversity’s sake, and that such a pick is a slight on America as a whole. In actuality, the embarrassing point is that it took so long to get here. We ask Black women to carry movements, provide emotional and financial support, and be strong in the face of constant threats – however, when it comes to giving them just due, we are bankrupt.
White male senators have decided to jump at the chance to push the public into a viewpoint that color doesn’t equal qualified. It’s all out of fear– fear that the country is changing in such a way that they—and their way of thinking—will soon be obsolete. If we intend to stop having firsts in America, we have also to recognize Black women have been short-changed for far too long.