Politicians and activists kept coming back to one word on Thursday after the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the US supreme court: joy.
After two grim years of a deadly pandemic and a democracy in peril, Jackson’s rise as the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court was lauded as a much-needed ray of hope.
“Judge Jackson’s confirmation was a historic moment for our nation,” tweeted Joe Biden, posting a photo of himself with Jackson after they watched the Senate’s 53-47 bipartisan vote on TV.
“We’ve taken another step toward making our highest court reflect the diversity of America. She will be an incredible justice, and I was honored to share this moment with her.”
Democratic senators stood and applauded in celebration. Cory Booker, a member of the Senate judiciary committee who is African American, said in a statement: “Like many Americans, I feel immense pride and so much joy at this historic occasion.
“As Judge Jackson ascends to the United States supreme court, I see in her the affirmation of our ancestors who suffered the indignities of this country yet sacrificed to bend the moral arc of our nation towards justice. They knew that America, though haunted by its past failings, was not bound by them and believed that a day like this would eventually arrive.”
The sentiment was echoed by Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She said: “This is truly a joyful day for the country. Judge Jackson is one of the most experienced nominees in decades.”
Jayapal acknowledged the partisan attacks by Republicans during Jackson’s confirmation process, including misleading questions about her sentencing of child abuse, images offenders and views on critical race theory.
“The country saw her poise, grace, thoughtfulness, and brilliance as she handled every part of the confirmation process – including some outrageous attacks from Republican senators that damaged only their credibility, not hers,” she added.
Jackson’s status as the first African American female justice in the 233-year history of the supreme court was also hailed by civil rights organizations, which pointed to its symbolic power for future generations of Black girls who will see her in school textbooks.
Janette McCarthy Wallace, general counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said: “Today, Black women truly are supreme. Over the past few weeks, it has been an incredible privilege to bear witness to the rise of the first Black woman supreme court justice.
“The significance of this moment for the Black community, especially for Black women like me who have spent decades in the legal profession, is tough to overstate.”
Wallace added: “Representation is powerful – now, Black women and girls who dream of reaching the highest levels of our government can see that it is possible. While soon-to-be Justice Jackson’s confirmation of her did not come without racist, misogynistic attacks on her career and character of her, it is without question that Ketanji Brown Jackson is eminently qualified to serve on the supreme court of the United States.
Amanda Brown Lierman, executive director of Supermajority, a women’s equality organisation, added: “This is a historic moment for all women, but especially for women of color. Representation matters, and little Black girls everywhere will finally be able to see themselves represented on the highest court of the land.
“I could not be more proud to have Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on the bench. I will be celebrating her de ella with my three daughters today, and every April 7 will be Ketanji Brown Jackson day in our house. ”
Republicans were unrepentant about their opposition to Jackson. Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican national committee, said: “Biden’s pick Ketanji Brown Jackson is a radical, activist judge, one who failed to answer simple questions on her record, including leniency for child porn offenders and support of CRT.
“Jackson has proven to be in lockstep with the far left’s political agenda, even refusing to define what a woman is.”
But the vote represents a rare victory for progressives after years of setbacks and bitterly divisive hearings that saw conservatives on the court gain a 6-3 majority that will remain unchanged. Barack Obama, America’s first Black president, tweeted congratulations to Jackson and wrote: “This is a great day for America, and a proud moment in our history.”
Meagan Hatcher-Mays, director of democracy policy for the grassroots movement Indivisible, said: “It’s not often we can describe a Senate vote as ‘joyous’, but that’s exactly what this was – for the first time in the supreme court’s 233-year history, a Black woman will serve as a justice.”