Opinion: It’s time to start celebrating Black excellence


Credit: Tina Su

WSPN’s Tina Su discusses the disrespect towards SCOTUS nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson during questioning and the need to celebrate Black excellence.

Tina Su

We all know the saying “guilty until proven innocent,” referring to defendants during criminal trials. Never would I think that we would see a similar sentiment shared among the senators who are interrogating SCOTUS nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Jackson has top-notch credentials: graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School, where she was the editor of the Harvard Law Review, and Federal Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, just to name a few. All of these previous activities deem Jackson a perfectly respectable and qualified nominee for the Supreme Court. However, her skin color seems to put a bias in the heads of the senators who believe that her skin color makes her unqualified for the job.

The job of the US Senate when the President nominates a candidate is to “question the nominee on his or her qualifications, judgment, and philosophy.” Embarrassing the nominee with unprofessional, disrespectful questions doesn’t seem to fall in their job description. “What is a woman?” is one of the many rude and frankly, irrelevant questions that the senators asked, in this case Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. According to “scientists, gender law scholars and philosophers of biology,”, there is no definitive answer to Blackburn’s question, therefore Jackson had no “correct” answer to give. This question had very little to do with Jackson’s qualifications, which was the purpose of their questioning. Instead, it was a way to spark a disagreement between their respective political parties. The blatant disrespect shown in this situation by this senator and several others brings up the question: Why her?

Comparatively, in October 2020, Amy Coney Barrett was testifying as a SCOTUS nominee as well. When asked what five freedoms the First Amendment guarantees, she was unable to answer with all five. This question, like most asked by the Republican senators, were meant to be easily answered, showing that their goal was to make Barrett seem more experienced and qualified for the job than she truly was.

These Republican senators are doing just the opposite with SCOTUS nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. They ask questions that are vague, and difficult to answer in a correct manner, like Senator Blackburn’s question. Many Republican senators even interrupted Jackson when she was trying to answer their questions, and others made their disagreement with her confirmation clear. South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham left the courtroom during the hearing, while Arkansas senator Tom Cotton called Jackson a liar during the questioning. The manners in which these senators are conducting themselves are not only unprofessional, but disrespectful to Jackson and the rest of the Senate. They are continuously trying to make Jackson appear unqualified and unable to answer the simplest of questions.

Despite this, Jackson has earned her spot. It is time for us to celebrate black excellence instead of downplay it. We need to start appreciating and welcoming diversity in our Supreme Court instead of preventing it. It is imperative that we acknowledge the representation for the millions of black Americans who previously had none.

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker seemed to be the first one to do so. He congratulated Jackson for being the first Black woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court, and delivered a heartfelt speech. “It’s hard for me not to look at you and not see my mom, not to see my cousins — one of them who had to come here and sit behind you,” Booker said. “She had to have your back. I see my ancestors and yours.” It has been far too long for these successes to be ignored. We, as a nation, need to start understanding the barriers that this nomination and now, confirmation, has broken in the black community.

“Nobody’s gonna steal that joy,” Booker said. “Nobody’s taking this away from me.”