“It only took my family a generation to go from segregation to the United States Supreme Court.”
Sometimes the story can be summed up in a single sentence of stark simplicity. But there were all sorts of complex elements wedged between each vowel and consonant in this statement from new Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson in a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on Friday.
Jackson will be the first black woman to serve on the country’s highest court – and the enthusiastic applause she received after delivering that line was a powerful tribute to her journey and that of the country she serves.
But to understand the full meaning of their rise, you need to delve into the word that sits like a leaden anchor at the center of that phrase: segregation.
Jackson was born in 1970 just as the victories of the civil rights movement began to emerge. But racial disparities remained stark after decades of legally sanctioned segregation that followed 250 years of legal enslavement of blacks.
Because neither the passing of laws nor the dismantling of racial codes erased the ingrained narrative of racial inferiority. America had long been invested in racial segregation and, more specifically, the privilege that comes with white skin. The marks of slavery are still with us, and yet we find ourselves in a time when the party that so viciously opposed Jackson’s nomination is erasing the teachings and discussions of our nation’s racial history and focusing instead on the advances America’s wants to focus.
They say we shouldn’t bother with all that old fashioned stuff like chains and shackles or white hoods and black bodies swinging from trees. Well, to understand and fully appreciate the advances we’ve made takes more than a cursory understanding of the dark places Americans lived in the sanction of the law to oppress the people. If you understand this story, you can see how the disrespect hurled at Jackson in the past month came too close to the casual and constant denigration of black people in this country for centuries.
She was interrupted. She was called a liar. She was asked about anti-racist textbooks that have little to do with her work at the bank. Your recording has been distorted. Your benefits have been downgraded.
Senators addressed her in loud and hostile language with a complete lack of respect for the candidate or the process or even the building in which the hearing was being held. Senator Rand Paul withheld Jackson’s confirmation vote for half an hour and finally cast his vote from the cloakroom, a private meeting room adjacent to the Senate.
Trifling isn’t a word people like to use on legislators, but how else do you describe such rowdy behavior? Senator Lindsey Graham did not wear a tie when voting, which meant he could not appear in the Senate. He too gave a no from the cloakroom.
People opposing that nomination spent a lot of energy suggesting that Jackson was a stand for positive action because her elevation fulfilled Biden’s campaign promise to nominate a black woman for the Supreme Court. You didn’t hear that kind of howl years ago when Ronald Reagan promised to nominate a woman before settling on Sandra Day O’Connor.
One of the worst remnants of segregation is the latent assumption that black people are inherently less skilled. It’s a lie. It’s always been a lie, and Jackson’s sparkling intellect and coolness under pressure should remind us that America has been robbed of that kind of talent for centuries because women and people of color of all kinds were all too often neglected.
In the end, when Jackson was confirmed and the room erupted in thunderous applause, most of the Republican senators left the room like bad losers. This was a refusal to show respect to a woman who is now tasked with acting in the best interests of all Americans.
They couldn’t prevent her nomination; So they wouldn’t applaud it or show her the respect she deserves. But they will have to accept their confirmation as fact. Her name will one day grace schools and public buildings; her face will smile down from massive public murals; Your words will likely be set in stone for school children to memorize. They can’t prevent that. (©Washington Post)
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/judge-ketanji-brown-jacksons-long-journey-to-the-us-supreme-court-shows-remnants-of-slavery-still-with-us-41540043.html Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s long journey to the US Supreme Court still shows us vestiges of slavery