The Judge Jackson Effect
On April 8, 2022, Ketanji Brown Jackson, a Black woman, was appointed to the US Supreme Court. It took 232 years and 115 prior appointments for the US to appoint a Black woman to its highest court. Four women now sit on the Supreme Court, another first for our southern neighbor.
Many jurists say that Judge Jackson’s appointment will not shift the ideological stance of the court, with its 6-3 conservative majority. I cannot agree.
Every new appointment that diversifies the court shifts the status quo. The shift may be a tremor and not an earthquake, but it has been felt and should not be underestimated.
Judge Jackson will bring her perspective and experience as a Black woman to the US Supreme Court. Her colleagues on the court will see her, will hear her. Issues will be debated and cases decided with the benefit of a Black woman’s viewpoint for the first time ever. If that is not a shift in status quo, I do not know what is.
There will be ripple effects for years to come. Judge Jackson will inspire a whole new generation of leaders. Black girls and women everywhere will see her confirmation. They will read her decisions. They will see that it is possible, for them too, to reach that level of success, to have that kind of influence. They will dream bigger than before. They will know it is not beyond their reach.
I am not saying anything new or groundbreaking here. There are countless articles that have been written on the importance of representation, before and since Judge Jackson’s appointment. But, I still think it is critical we hang onto this moment in time for as long as possible and let it feel good.
So, let’s not stop celebrating just yet. Let’s not go back to business as usual just yet. Let’s put Judge Jackson’s face and her mind-blowing accomplishments in front of our daughters and our friends’ daughters, and all of the boys and girls who do not fit the white male archetype of lawyer and judge. Let’s make sure they know that it is possible.
President Biden spoke candidly about the unfair and painful nomination and confirmation process that Judge Jackson went through. It went well beyond anything he had seen to date. She faced “verbal abuse”, “anger” and the “most vile, baseless assertions and accusations”.
If you are reading this, and you are not sure whether you can make it in the legal career because you have faced obstacles others have not, because of your gender, skin color or sexual orientation, let yourself be buoyed by the Judge Jackson effect. What would she do in your shoes? Your path may be difficult and you will probably continue to face unfair adversity and disadvantage as did Judge Jackson. She persisted and she won. You can too.