It seems that even the United States Supreme Court is not immune to the so-called “Great Resignation” currently sweeping through America. Last week, Justice Stephen Breyer announced his plans to retire at the end of this judicial term, giving President Biden the chance to install a progressive judge who will remain in place for decades and perhaps improve what is likely to be a dismal presidential legacy.
This new gap on the court bench is somehow already riddled with controversy. It is perhaps proof of the polarization and volatility of America that an empty space and an unknown person can cause such anger.
This ire comes primarily from Republican politicians who are incensed by Biden’s promise that the next justice will be a Black woman. The bogeymans of identity politics and affirmative action that always seem to haunt discussions of diversity are afoot in this conversation too, as politicians like Ted Cruz claim that for “Democrats, in particular the far left, everything is race, everything is that they will discriminate based on race… they don’t care about the individual.”
Given that Black female judges are competent and white people are not discriminated against based on race, this anger at Biden’s decision to nominate a Black woman is also deeply hypocritical. Republicans had no qualms about Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination even though Trump explicitly vowed to select a woman. Similarly, Sandra Day O’Connor was confirmed unanimously by the Senate, even though Ronald Reagan had the same motivations for her nomination.
Ted Cruz might be right when he says “everything is race,” although not for the reasons he thinks. The brutal litmus test that Black women — not just women in general — must pass in order to be awarded positions of power is steeped in historic racism. It is also jarring to consider that the current controversy is predicated solely on the idea of Black women — not a specific or problematic judge — being on the Supreme Court.
It is Republicans, not Democrats, demeaning our next justice solely because of her race. They will likely never consider her accomplishments, her history or her as an “individual” when it comes to her place on the Court. It is conservatives who will forever reduce her to being a diversity hire, a virtue-signal, a political ploy. It is Republicans who endlessly crow that “everything is race” when Black women are able to move up in the world against all odds.
Many conservatives claim to honor facts over feelings and to ceaselessly abide by logic. Alright then, here is a fact-based, logical syllogism: — Black women have never been granted a position on the Supreme Court. Black women possess the same degrees, qualifications, and experience — or more — as other justices on the Supreme Court. Therefore, Black women have every right and reason to finally be appointed to the Supreme Court. Quite straightforward.
This racist controversy over Biden’s pick overpowers any debate or discussion about the actual positions and leanings of our next justice, which in an ideal world would be the only newsworthy conversation at all.
“Freedom”, as nebulous and cliché as that word is, is probably the most pressing issue that the Supreme Court will deal with in the coming years. Freedom in terms of bodily autonomy and reproductive rights, as Roe v. Wade creeps closer and closer to being overturned. Vaccine mandate policies, which affect doctors and patients as well as CEOs and workers, hang in the balance with upcoming Supreme Court decisions.
Freedom for those on death row to live. Freedom to be gay and be parents. Or freedom to deny gay people parenthood.
These legal quandaries are imperative to our nation and its citizens, as decisions made in the Supreme Court literally shape the everyday realities of millions of Americans. Undoubtedly, Biden will pick a liberal judge who will advance, albeit slightly, justice and equity. But it is an unfair reality that racism and misogyny are the main talking points surrounding this influential decision, instead of honest inquiry or righteous triumph.
It will forever haunt and shame me that many of the politicians currently decrying Black women follow my faith and pray to my God. But to many Christians, God is an imposing white man, banging a gavel in the clouds and casting harsh judgement upon the world. What else, then, could a Supreme Court justice be?
Personally, I could not be Christian if I believed that to be God.
I believe God is within each of us, whispering into our souls that it’s about time for Black women to be leaders, for girls to be free, for prisoners to receive mercy, for love to be love. That those who worship white supremacy may remain hateful, but they are losing.
So as our next justice is appointed and little Black girls finally get to see themselves wearing those black robes, I like to remember that the world really is turning a little bit more towards justice, towards equality and towards freedom. Even Ted Cruz can’t get in its way.