America Deserves a High Court That Reflects the Diversity of Our People

US Supreme CourtImage by William Murphy
Op-Ed by Rep. Joanna McClinton, House Democratic Leader

It took 148 years for the first African American woman to be elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, the esteemed Crystal Bird Fauset. Yet it has taken 232 years to even have a Black woman nominated to our nation’s highest court.

According to the Pew Research Center, fewer than 2% of the 3,800-plus people who have ever served on the federal bench have been Black women. Fewer than two percent. I applaud President Joe Biden for honoring his pledge to nominate an African American woman to the Supreme Court, and his overall work to diversify the federal bench.

But Biden’s nominee does more than check a box for diversity. Judge Jackson, who has received bipartisan support during her three previous confirmation votes, is highly qualified and has been called “impressive” and “brilliant” by senators on both sides of the aisle. Currently a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, she undoubtedly has the academic pedigree, surpasses the qualifications for experience and is thoroughly prepared for the historic role she’d be undertaking.

Aside from her legal expertise, as a former Philadelphia public defender, I am most heartened by Judge Jackson’s experience as an Assistant Federal Public Defender. A background in public defense is not the traditional path to the high court bench, but public defenders bring a unique perspective of compassion and understanding of justice to the practice of law.

Finally, as an African American woman, an attorney, and a person who has been blessed to blaze new trails in Pennsylvania politics, I’m truly excited for all of the little Black girls in schools and young Black women in communities – from Philadelphia to Erie, and Scranton to York – who will hopefully soon see someone who looks like them on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Now it is time for the U.S. Senate to do its job and give Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson a fair review and a swift confirmation.

Her time, and our time, has come.

Joanna McClinton serves as the Pennsylvania House Democratic Leader, and represents the 191st House District, which includes portions of Philadelphia and Delaware County.

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