American history is rich and replete with the indelible contributions of women. Some contributions are archived in museums, etched in stone and recounted by scholars. Others are remembered in stories told by our grandmothers, or notes kept in a shoebox. All women, renowned or obscure, deserve to be respected and recognized for their contributions because, more than likely, they came with sacrifice, toil and challenges.
But this week it’s time for all Americans to celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of one particular woman: President Joe Biden’s choice to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has a brilliant mind, exceptional education and an outstanding background. She is extremely competent and highly prepared to be confirmed and sworn into office.
Yet, before she was named, her consideration was met with resistance, racial rhetoric and rants about disqualification. Why? I believe it’s because she is an African American female and different from the historical and current makeup of the Supreme Court.
Different does not mean defective, deficient or dispensable. Different means that a distinct and unique perspective can influence broader, richer and deeper debates. Different does not disqualify the qualified. A lived experience that represents the conscience of a country that aspires to the idea that “all people are created equal” and a more fair and just society should be welcomed, encouraged and embraced. Jackson is Harvard educated, with a background beyond reproach. She is a highly respected judge who has garnered the support of Democrats and Republicans.
Her presence on the Supreme Court can elevate and balance the deliberative process on issues related to the marginalized and underrepresented. It is time that the Supreme Court properly reflects the demographic composition of America.
Since the first assembly of the Supreme Court in 1790 — 232 years ago — there has not been an African American woman even nominated to serve on the Supreme Court. Out of 113 justices who have served on the highest court, only five have been women. It is time for us to dispense with long-held stereotypes, dispose of obvious biases and dismantle systems intended to exclude people who are different. It is time for us to continue to dignify the court with another highly qualified, prepared and competent justice. Her name is Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.
It is time for Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski to be on the right side of history again by placing their support behind Jackson. It is not time for West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema to leave America slack-jawed and stunned by handing us another defeat. This is a moment in time to galvanize the country and bring us together around one common principle and aspiration: democracy. The person who can help strengthen our democracy, the person for this moment, is Jackson.
It is time for some John McCain courage, Ruth Bader Ginsberg gumption and John Lewis leadership to rise among our senators. In the name of everything that is right, fair, equal, decent, honorable and good for our country, the senators who are elected to represent the American people, should vote to support Biden’s nominee.
This moment in history personifies the hopes of our African American ancestors. It exemplifies the dreams of the civil rights movement. It symbolizes the promise to every African American girl, born and unborn, that she can, too. This momentous occasion is where history, reconciliation, qualifications and opportunity meet. Let the tears, sacrifices, marches, deaths and prayers not be in vain. Let the contributions of African Americans be affirmed with the confirmation of Jackson.
There are cases that have yet to be filed, that need to be heard. There are laws that have yet to be interpreted, that need to be adjudicated. There are opinions that have yet to be written, that need to be announced. The future is calling. Let the cases be heard and the opinions be written by Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
The Rev. Theresa A. Dear is a national board member of the NAACP and a Deseret News contributor.