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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

The Supreme Court Vacancy is an Opportunity for Democrats to Deliver for Black Voters

Putting the first Black woman on the Supreme Court moves us one step closer in a long journey towards a more just and better country

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Building a multiracial, multicultural democracy is hard and we must be willing to fight for it. There’s no silver bullet to solve the challenges we face but putting the first Black woman on the Supreme Court moves us one step closer in a long journey towards a more just and better country.

Let’s start with the facts. Our highest court in the land has never reflected America’s diversity. The Court has been around for 233 years, and 115 Justices have served in total. By design, 108 of those Justices have been white men. That’s 94%. Lower courts aren’t much better. As of 2020, roughly 60% of all U.S. District Courts had no women of color on the bench. Think of all the experienced, qualified Black women that have been passed over for a seat – until now.

President Biden recently reaffirmed his commitment to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, but he first made the promise as a candidate heading into the South Carolina primary. His campaign hinged on the state and his vow to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court marked a turning point. Black voters delivered the state for Biden and set him on the path to the presidency. Past presidents have broken a lot of campaign promises, particularly to communities of color. I’m glad to see President Biden follow through on this.

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Sadly, but not surprisingly, many conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. John Kennedy are weaponizing President Biden’s promise through faux outrage and dog whistles, claiming it would discriminate against other candidates. But picking a Supreme Court Justice has historically centered on calculations around issues like gender and race. In 1980, President Reagan pledged to nominate a woman to appeal to women voters. In 1991, President Bush chose to replace the honorable Justice Thurgood Marshall, a civil rights leader and the first Black Justice, with Justice Clarence Thomas. President Trump picked Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Kennedy instead of Amy Coney Barrett telling advisors: “I’m saving her [Barrett] for Ginsburg.” Where were the Republican objections then?

Although this decision follows years of precedent, the nominee will surely face a flurry of attacks about their qualifications. It’s our job to call out racist attacks on their records and attempts to discredit them. Like most of you, I’ve seen the names of several potential nominees. These are women with significant experience and strong records on key issues from civil rights to the environment. I am confident that whoever President Biden picks will be a champion for underserved communities, progressive priorities and equally, if not more, qualified than her counterparts.

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Choosing someone to sit on the Supreme Court is one of the most sacred constitutional responsibilities and an opportunity to right our historical wrongs. As the late Rep. Barbara Jordan reminded us, when the constitution was written, Black women were excluded from being considered people on the account of their race and gender. By choosing a Black woman, we move closer to fulfilling the true meaning of our Constitution’s “We The People.”

For far too long, our country’s highest court has failed to reflect the people.

Black voters, particularly Black women, are the core of the Democratic Party yet also one of the most vulnerable populations. We campaign for their support, make promises to get it, and now it’s time to show that we are serious about delivering for them. Confirming President Biden’s eventual nominee, with the same swiftness that Republicans confirmed Justice Barrett, is the first step in this process.

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The next step is passing voting rights legislation. 440 voter suppression bills have been introduced in 49 states in the 2021 legislative session alone. 34 laws have been enacted in 19 states that restrict access to the ballot. These restrictive laws disproportionately impact communities of color. The House has already passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act and the Senate should do the same. We can’t rely on support from across the aisle. The right to vote is sacred, and Democrats should do everything in our power to end the regime of disenfranchisement throughout our country. That means ending the filibuster or at least making an exemption for voting rights.

The Democratic Party has a lot of work to do if we are serious about building a multiracial, multicultural democracy. Seating a Black woman on the Supreme Court who will represent and support Black communities and passing voting rights legislation must be top priorities. We can’t take the support of Black communities for granted. Democrats need to deliver.

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 Rep. Ro Khanna has served California’s 17th congressional district since 2017.