By Soorin Kim
When President Joe Biden announced he wanted his Supreme Court nominee to be a Black woman, he was met with overwhelming dissent.
Conservatives rallied against Biden, claiming he would nominate a judge solely because of her race and gender without regard for her lesser-than qualifications, thereby admitting to thinking that a Black woman couldn’t have the same stellar education or career of the five white men who currently serve as justices.
Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson on Feb. 25, and since then the lawyer has received glowing endorsements from prominent Republican figures like J. Michael Luttig. Praise for her career and intellect are not unsubstantiated: Jackson is a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School and served as editor of the Harvard Law Review. She has clerked for the Supreme Court and has had a successful career as a public defender and later as a federal judge.
The attorney’s resume is superb, as well as similar to her peers who are residing on the Supreme Court currently. Brett Kavanaugh, for instance, attended Yale University, Yale Law School and clerked for the Supreme Court at the beginning of his career.
Jackson’s appointment to this position makes sense. There’s only one problem: her identity.
Because Biden specified the race and gender of the person he would nominate as a Justice, Republicans have been up in arms about an age-old question of Affirmative Action. Some argued that the president is only trying to superficially diversify the courtroom by intentionally seeking out an underrepresented member of a marginalized group.
What about other deserving candidates who just so happen to be white?
I don’t feel much pity for the slew of white male Harvard and Yale Law School graduates who might have been contenders for Jackson’s spot.
She is just as qualified as this crowd. Yes, her race and gender were both considered when Biden nominated her, but in reality, these facets of identity are literally skin deep. She is an equal and a rival to the privileged few.
Yet still, some say that her position is undeserved. Conservative news pundit Tucker Carlson has recently been criticized for his racist remarks about the legitimacy of Jackson’s experience and expertise. Carlson demanded to see Jackson’s LSAT scores, attempting to build an aura of mystery around the affair as if Biden was scrambling to hide Jackson’s law school application from Fox News’ hawk-like eyes.
There have been many unsubstantiated rumors about how Jackson got into Harvard or about how much knowledge she really possesses about the legal system. These events commonly play out when minorities enter positions of power. Sonia Sotomayor, the only other nonwhite woman sitting on the court, has had her intelligence called into question similarly by Republican political commentators. Donald Trump, à la Tucker, has made demands to see Barack Obama’s birth certificate and college grades, hoping to undermine the former president’s intellectual status.
These attacks are all part of a narrative that conservatives have been weaving about power in America for some time now.
Whether it is college admissions or job interviews, many white men feel that they are being cheated out of what is rightfully theirs just so a board can fill a certain quota. In the conservative mind, the many underrepresented groups who have been struggling to reach equal footing have all only been given the benefit of the doubt by schools and employers looking to diversify. They believe that white men are becoming a group that the powerful few are discriminating against, unaware that they compose the powerful few.
This blatant hypocrisy on the part of the media and the general public is astounding.
They have created a circular type of logic in which no minority can ever definitively prove their intelligence. Anything that a marginalized person achieves can be merely chalked up to Affirmative Action and can be used against them.
Conservatives do not try to understand the purpose of Biden’s race and gender-based nomination which seeks to elevate a particular voice that has been suppressed for centuries.
Jackson is the first-ever Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court while white men have been dominating the position since America’s birth. How could the right take offense to the one and only Black woman who has managed to gain this position after years of having their own faces reflected back on them by the judicial branch?
Nevertheless, the initial backlash to Jackson’s nomination is all grist for the gossip mill and likely won’t have any real effect on her position. However, as her confirmation hearings near, one wonders if the Senate Judiciary Committee might give in to the growing din concerning her qualifications by asking her pointed, racially charged questions, which might lead to wide-scale doubt of the perfectly capable judge.
But like any member of an underrepresented group who has fought for power and respect from white peers in the past, Ketanji Brown Jackson will surely and deftly maneuver around barbs and serve her country just as effectively as those standing in her way.