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A Black Woman Supreme Court Nomination: Earned or Offensive?

Ketanji Brown Jackson
President Biden's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

When it was announced President Biden would nominate a Black woman for the United States Supreme Court, Sen. Ted Cruz called Biden’s pledge to put a Black woman on supreme court ‘offensive.'

It begs to wonder if Biden had said he was nominating a White man if the reaction would be the same. I highly doubt it – qualified candidate or not. Much like the rant on affirmative action as the reason Ketanji Brown Jackson is given this opportunity, one could conclude White privilege would be the reason a White man would be afforded the same opportunity.

Some people argue that White privilege and affirmative action are the same thing. Others argue that they are completely different. I would argue that affirmative action is tantamount to reverse racism, while maintaining that White privilege is an invisible system of advantages that keeps white people on top.

To be more direct, White privilege is an institutionalized system that has given White people disproportionate advantages other races do not have.

Let’s face it, White privilege has never aimed to reduce inequality or strive to create a more level playing field for minorities in North America. There's also no question that America is a "White privilege" society. White people hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, power, and social status compared to people of other races. So, while all White people benefit from some level of White privilege, those who are in positions of power and influence enjoy the greatest advantages.

This is why I find what Cruz said “offensive.” Instead of looking at it as Biden diversifying the Supreme Court Justice position by nominating a highly qualified minority [Black] woman, Cruz’s remarks are as overt as explicit discrimination or racism. There's been a lot of talk for years about the need for more diversity on the U.S. Supreme Court. And unless we start acknowledging and addressing these issues, things will never change.

Women have long been underrepresented in the Court. In fact, there has never been a female majority on the court. This lack of representation has been detrimental to our country because the Supreme Court makes decisions that affect all Americans, not just men. Having a woman (especially a minority woman) on the Court would ensure that a wider range of perspectives are considered when making these important decisions. Only then can we move closer to achieving justice for all.

And just to briefly clarify why affirmative action would have nothing to do with the Supreme Court nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson (or any minority woman): qualification supersedes skin color. This is also the purpose of confirmation hearings.

Equally, while affirmative action is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of laws, programs, and policies promoting racial and ethnic diversity in workforces and education institutions, any minority nominee would have surpassed these barriers long before receiving a nomination of this stature.

So, is this historic nomination something to celebrate, or another example of political correctness gone too far? I would say the answer does not matter. If the goal of affirmative action is to create a level playing field where everyone has an opportunity to succeed regardless of their skin color or ethnicity, then I say this nomination is making up for centuries of discrimination. Why? Because Affirmative Action does not only apply to ethnic minorities, but anyone who has been denied opportunities due their skin color or ethnicity.

There is no question that White privilege exists in America. However, the extent to which it pervades our political system is what needs correcting. Politicians like Ted Cruz and other like candidates often forget or ignore the needs and voices of people of color. And when they do address those issues, it's often done in a way that is tokenistic or superficial. That has to change, and it can only change with diversifying the voices of those at the top.

Dr. Pam Gurley is an accomplished author, CEO, podcaster, professor, professional speaker and businesswoman. Her ultimate objective: Work every day to change how Black women are perceived.

Listen to Dr. Pam as she is interviewed by Bob Gatty on the Lean to the Left Podcast.

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Mar 23, 2022

The Biden promise was not "offensive," but I don't think it was wise. I agree with every point you make in this excellent article. But POTUS's prior promise limited the talent pool and opened the president up to the criticism he is receiving from the radical right. What if the most qualified candidate was not a woman of color? Shouldn't "most qualified" be the goal? I have no doubt that Ketanji Brown Jackson is well qualified, will be a fine Justice, and her opinions will be quoted for years to come. In my opinion, even though I completely agree with the choice and that the time has come for women, especially women of color to rule the world (we men…


I am in complete agreement!

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