Why America Needs A Black Woman Justice On The US Supreme Court
Systemic racism in America persists, in part, because our courts, legislatures and civil services have always been predominantly white and male.
August 11, 2020 at 6:59 pm
“The V.P. is good on style, but, on substance, give me an African American woman on the Supreme Court. That's where we determine how our democracy will be preserved.”
That’s what House Majority Whip James Clyburn said just over a week ago, in response to a question about whether or not Biden ought to choose a Black woman as his running mate. I couldn’t agree with Mr. Clyburn more.
Systemic racism in America persists, in part, because our courts, legislatures and civil services have always been predominantly white and male. The nation’s moral compass has always been defined by the white male experience, with grave consequences for people of color in employment, health, education and justice.
As a Black woman myself, I think appointing a Black woman to the Supreme Court is the next and necessary step towards a truer form of democracy and ensuring that our unique experiences and perspective are represented in the Court’s deliberative process. That’s why I am launching She Will Rise, Demand Justice's brand new campaign that seeks to foster greater equality in America by ensuring a Black woman is nominated and confirmed to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
From ending police violence and racial profiling to advocating for healthcare access, Black women have shown up at the polls, at protests and in our community. We have demonstrated that we are not only in support of policies and laws that will improve the lives of all Americans, but we are also willing to fight for them.
Our perspectives are informed by our own marginalized realities. We have watched as mostly white men on the Court deny us our most basic civil rights because they don’t equally value our needs and experiences. Perhaps, nowhere has their bias been more blatant than on voting rights.
In a landmark 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the Court struck down the need for historically racist jurisdictions to clear new elections or voting laws with the federal government to ensure they weren’t discriminatory. Now, discriminatory voting laws throughout the South have to be identified and challenged by individual communities, advocates or the Justice Department, which doesn’t often happen until damage is done.
Writing in the majority opinion in the case, Chief Justice Roberts’ justification for removing federal preclearance was decidedly out of touch. He claimed that racial disparities in voter registration were no longer possible because literacy tests have been banned for decades. But, if he was right, 53,000 voter registrants in Georgia — 70% of whom were Black — wouldn’t have had their registrations placed in “pending” status by the secretary of state because of minor errors on their registration forms, such as missing hyphens.
Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion in Shelby County v. Holder excluded the experiences of the people it impacted most. It could prevail because four of his overwhelmingly white male colleagues shared his out-of-touch point of view. Too many civil rights cases in America are decided by the same narrow 5-4 margin.
During the pandemic, the Supreme Court has intervened to prevent states from taking common-sense steps to enable people to vote safely, forcing Americans to choose between their health and exercising their right to vote.
The Court threw Wisconsin’s April elections into chaos when, on the day before election day, it ruled 5-4 to overturn a lower court’s ruling extending the state’s mail-in ballot deadline by six days. Mail-in ballots in Milwaukee, where nearly 70% of the state’s Black population lives, were unreturned at double the usual rate.
The past is history, but there are future cases headed for the Court in which the Court’s ideology must be aligned with needs on the ground. For example, this fall, the Court will hear arguments against the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's health care law helping marginalized communities survive the disparate outcomes racism fosters.
Appointing a Black woman to the Court is the natural next step in the story of the U.S. Supreme Court. In the She Will Rise campaign, I’ll be accompanied in my advocacy for the nation to take that step by a sisterhood of other strong Black women who have repeatedly proven that our electoral power is a game-changing force of nature, most recently when we delivered Democrats the House in 2018.
We will fight for this necessary Supreme Court appointment together because freedom and liberty can’t be delivered to all until our institutions authentically reflect the extraordinary diversity of people, perspectives and contributions that make our country special.