Today, President Joseph Biden has made history by nominating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve as associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. As we celebrate this historic moment, The Opportunity Agenda also wants to pause to acknowledge the tragedy of war and share our concern for the threats to world peace, and the safety of the people of Ukraine in this moment. In the midst of this global crisis, we see a glimmer of hope here in the United States. The Opportunity Agenda has issued the following statement to commemorate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic nomination.
“Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in our country’s journey toward breaking down systemic racism in our government institutions. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination as the first Black woman to join the Supreme Court is a culmination of her illustrious and impressive legal career. Her nomination is also the result of the diligence of thousands of Black women lawyers who dreamed, mentored, litigated, and trailblazed for this moment. It is a moment many of us have been waiting for. This nomination shows how Judge Brown Jackson’s indisputable credentials were able to defy the barriers of racism and sexism that Black women face every day. And because representation matters, it also serves as a bright light for others aspiring to the kind of stellar legal career that Judge Brown Jackson exemplifies, a shining example, proving that they too can strive for a seat on the high court.
“We must mark and celebrate this moment by ensuring Judge Brown Jackson’s swift confirmation, and by telling and retelling the story about how the opportunity to confirm her to the highest court in the land is a moment to celebrate the leadership, experience, perspectives, and contributions that she brings, and that Black women bring, to our systems of government, and now, with her confirmation, to the Supreme Court,” said Ellen Buchman, president of The Opportunity Agenda.
If confirmed, Judge Brown Jackson would become the fifth woman, first Black woman, and the second woman of color to join the Supreme Court – notably 40 years after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor joined the high court as the first woman ever to be nominated.
In the weeks to come as the U.S. Senate considers this nomination, it is essential that we contextualize this moment and the significance of this nomination in relation to what this means for the future of our country and for the aspirations we have toward breaking down systemic barriers that stand in the way of progress. The Opportunity Agenda offers the following reminders on how to do that:
1) Lead with Shared Values: As a nation, we can recognize the importance of this moment for our shared values around equal justice, diversity, and opportunity:
- Equal Justice: The Supreme Court is charged with upholding Equal Justice Under Law. This country depends on Supreme Court justices who have demonstrated their passion to make these words come to life, by ensuring that we all are treated fairly and have access to equal opportunity. At a time when the public is questioning the Supreme Court’s commitment to this charge and to protecting everyone’s rights, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has a background that reflects a passion and commitment for protecting this core value of the Supreme Court.
- Diversity: Any organization is stronger when people with diverse perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds come to the table. The Supreme Court makes decisions that impact the lives of all of us, and so it should reflect the rich diversity of our country. By bringing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, we are making a significant leap in making sure that the Supreme Court is more reflective of the communities that are impacted by the judiciary. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s experiences will enrich the perspectives of those who sit on the nation’s highest court and help us ensure that all Americans see themselves and are represented there.
- Opportunity: Access to education, advancement in the legal profession, and countless other hurdles have stood in the way of Black women aspiring to someday join the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has worked hard to obtain preeminent qualifications that exemplify what is possible when we expand access to opportunity. By having Ketanji Brown Jackson as a member of the Supreme Court, our courts can be better positioned to more effectively confront those systemic hurdles that stand in the way of true opportunity and equal justice.
2) Highlight Judge Brown Jackson’s Personal Success in Spite of Significant Systemic Barriers: Opposition to this nomination is going to focus on dehumanizing Judge Brown Jackson or drawing upon facts that would cast her in a shadow. One way we can push back on that is by flipping the script and helping to tell her story, the systemic hurdles she overcame, and the community that helped her reach this point. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s story is emblematic of countless other Black women in our nation who strive for greatness despite the barriers they face. Take the time to uplift the elements of her story that connect with you and your audience at a personal level. Reframe the conversation by focusing on how Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was able to achieve extraordinary success and the highest credentials in the legal profession despite the systemic challenges and discrimination she encountered on her journey.
Over the next couple of weeks, The Opportunity Agenda will continue to monitor the confirmation process and explore ways that we can continue to support our partners who are helping to tell the stories of what this nomination means for their communities and what it means for the future of our nation. We will share resources and messaging in the weeks to come. You can find those resources here.