On April 7, 2022, the U.S. Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. For the first time in the 233 years of the Supreme Court, we will have a Black woman as a justice. For the first time, four of the nine justices will be women. Two will be women of color. Jackson will be the sixth woman to serve on the Supreme Court and only the fourth person of color to sit on the Supreme Court. She may be the first Supreme Court Justice who ever worked at upholding one of the most important guarantees of our constitution — the right to an attorney in criminal proceedings.
There have been so many important think pieces about the importance of having someone like Jackson on the Supreme Court. Sen. Cory Booker took time in the confirmation hearings to powerfully express his joy in the moment.
Representation matters. Women constitute only 24 of 100 senators. There are three Black men in the Senate, two Asian women, seven people identified as Hispanic — all but one are men — and no Native Americans. In the House of Representatives the breakdown of the 435 members is that 21 percent are women, 13 percent are Black, 9 percent are Hispanic, 3 percent are Asian and Pacific Islanders and 1 percent are Native.
This moment of time reminds me of the backlash to Reconstruction. For a period of about 40 years after the Civil War, around 2,000 Black people — mostly Black men — were elected to various local and national offices, including two men elected to the U.S. Senate. There were also several laws were passed to decrease economic inequality, particularly inequality related to the enslavement of human beings.
In response, led by the enslaving oligarchs of the South, there was an intense and powerful backlash: poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses and threats of violence, including lynching. It would take almost 85 years for another Black man to be elected to the Senate.
The moment we are in right now seems to be an effort to recreate a white, mostly male and wealthy backlash. Again, powerful elites are using white supremacy and misogyny through the “culture wars” and attacks on “critical race theory.”
Instead of literacy tests, there are efforts to limit mail-in-voting, “Souls to the Polls” and extended voting. There are also moves to create ID requirements and criminalize people who try to register people to vote.
We have witnessed other countries and even had moments in our own country where equality and the prosperity of people were somehow overturned by appeals to fear and hate. We must use moments of celebration as calls to action. We cannot allow the joy of this moment to be wiped out.
Read more of the Apr. 20-26, 2022 issue.