to the Supreme Court, a historic appointment with a bitter taste

The moment is historic. Following a confirmation vote by the Senate, this Thursday, April 7, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first black woman to enter the Supreme Court.

→ THE FACTS. Joe Biden appoints first African-American justice to Supreme Court

In the Senate, divided equally between Democrats-independents and Republicans (50 seats each), three elected members of the right-wing party had announced their support for his candidacy, ensuring the judge from Washington a place among the nine judges of the Court, including the decisions on major social issues (abortion, firearms, gay marriage, electoral law, etc.) have the power to transform the country.

An undeniable victory

For progressive America, the lifetime appointment of this relatively young (51) judge is an undeniable victory. In recent years, black women, the backbone of the Democratic Party, have risen to prominence in the political arena, winning major elections and participating in the resurgence of activism that marked the Trump era. An energy rewarded in January 2021 by the investiture of Kamala Harris, the first black woman to occupy the vice-presidency.

“Throughout history, African-American women have faced double discrimination: sexism and racism. Even African American men have pushed them aside in their fights for equal rights. They obtained the right to vote much later than themrecalls Daina Ramey Berry, historian author of a book on African-American women. They had tofight harder for their voices to be heard and for a place at the decision-making table. »

Midterms in sight

Despite its historic nature, the road to the Supreme Court was not without controversy for Justice Jackson. His hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, charged with questioning nominees to assess their suitability for the high court, was used by Republican members to push political messages ahead of November’s midterm elections. . This election, which will renew the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate, will determine Joe Biden’s room for maneuver for the second part of his term.

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Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn took Judge Jackson into the field of a hot topic for conservatives: transsexuality and gender identity. The elected asked her to define the word “woman”. “I can’t in this context. I’m not a biologist.” replied the judge.


The Texan Ted Cruz questioned her on the theme of “wokism” in education, another campaign topic for the conservative right. He asked her about a book called anti-racist babytaught in the private school in Washington, of which the judge is a member of the board of directors. “Do you think, like this children’s book, that babies are racist? »he submitted to her.

Ketanji Brown Jackson revealed his exasperation with this very political questioning, intended to portray her as opposed to conservative values. Such works “do not interfere in my work as a judge, a subject that I have come, with all due respect, to address here”.

African American women are all too familiar with the feeling of being reclaimed, according to Daina Ramey Berry. «Black women are often made invisible. When they enter meeting rooms, we think that they are in charge of doing the service! They have to bang their fists on the table to remind them that they have something to contribute. »

The “death” of hearings for the Supreme Court

Jonathan Turley, professor of law at George Washington University, deplored, on the conservative site The Hill, the ” dead ” hearings of judges at the Supreme Court. According to him, these job interviews have become moments “performative art for senators and endurance testsfor the nominees, who have become accustomed to being vague about their judicial philosophy on controversial topics like abortion. They want to avoid endangering their selection in a context of growing political polarization.

The arrival of Judge Jackson, replacing Stephen Breyer, who announced his retirement twenty-eight years after being chosen by Bill Clinton, will not change the balance of power in the Court. It remains dominated by conservatives since the appointment of three « justices » par Donald Trump.

The validation of the candidacy of Ketanji Brown Jackson by the Senate comes in a climate of turbulence for the high court. At the end of March, the Washington Post revealed text messages sent by the wife of one of the judges, Clarence Thomas, to Donald Trump’s chief of staff to encourage the White House to contest the victory of Joe Biden. A scandal that tarnishes the credibility of the Court. According to the Pew Institute, 54% of Americans had a positive image of the institution in February, compared to 69% in August 2019.


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