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What would Ketanji Brown Jackson do? 

President Biden announced he’s nominating Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Her addition is a victory for history in multiple ways. 


President Joe Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to fill Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s soon-to-be-vacated seat is a victory for history. 

Jackson, currently serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, will become the first Black woman on the Supreme Court if she's confirmed by the Senate. And such an outcome seems likely.

Having someone with her outstanding experience will give the Supreme Court a much-needed voice to place future rulings in their proper context.

Biden nominated Jackson to the federal appeals court last year and she was confirmed by a 53-44 vote, with Republican Sens. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voting with Democrats in her favor.

With Thursday’s announcement, Biden has fulfilled his campaign promise to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court if a seat became available. Jackson’s confirmation will be an important milestone in American history to reflect on. And having someone with her outstanding experience will give the Supreme Court a much-needed voice to place future rulings in their proper context. 

Here, I’m referring to the benefits of her personal profile as a Black woman and her professional profile as a renowned federal public defender. Both experiences would be firsts in the history of the Supreme Court, and both make Jackson perfectly suited to serve the country during this era of right-wing revanchism. 

Image: Ketanji Brown Jackson
President Joe Biden announced he's nominating federal appeals judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the Supreme Court.Tom Williams / AFP via Getty Images file

Jackson's views — both as a Black woman who’s had to defend herself against subjugation and a lawyer with the language to do so for those who often lack means — will be an incomparable counterweight to the court’s conservative tilt.

Lest we forget: Biden didn’t only seek to appoint a Black woman. During the presidential transition, he specifically asked senators to recommend court appointees who’ve had experience as public defenders or civil rights attorneys. The point of that is to find someone who won’t only lend their vote to just causes, but someone who can use their unique viewpoint to inform the court — and the country — why those causes are worth pursuing. 

Today, we are witnessing the power of historical truths, and the threat they pose to conservative revisionists looking to whitewash America’s past. Conservative lawmakers are passing measures that make it hard to study America’s inequitable history. Conservative judges — including those on the Supreme Court — are using that whitewashed history to usher in an era of law that ignores discrimination in every arena, from health care, to voting rights, to school admissions. 

Jackson likely won’t be able to stop them, but she can issue powerful legal opinions that rebuke her conservative colleagues before the eyes of the world for their anti-democratic complicity. And those opinions could galvanize the public to demand change.