The future of black history is now with talented Supreme Court nominees

Here in Black History Month, we are presented with a controversial, race-based topic after President Joe Biden declared his intention to appoint a black woman as the next Supreme Court Justice, replacing Justice outgoing Stephen Breyer.

Without context, Biden’s announcement could have been interpreted as a little condescending. At a minimum, the occasion offered some a chance to criticize any attempt to use race as a factor when choosing a candidate.

But Biden has also been accused of carrying out his own version of Affirmative Action, the kind seen as condescending compensation for being inadequate – the stigma – not the kind that aims to ensure we all play fairly. Indeed, Georgetown law professor Ilya Shapiro interpreted Biden’s action to mean that even a “less (qualified) black woman” would get the job just because she was black.

It’s a familiar trope that has followed affirmative action since its inception.

But with just a cursory review of the backgrounds of the three presumed top candidates, we can prove their qualifications. For example, Ketanji Brown Jackson, attended Harvard University for college and law school, where she served as editor of the Harvard Law Review. She is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Leondra Kruger is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School. She is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of California.

(Julianna) J. Michelle Childs graduated with honors with a BA in Management from the University of South Florida. She received her law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law, a Master of Arts in Personal and Labor Relations from the University of South Carolina School of Commerce, and she received her LLM in Forensic Studies from Duke University School of Law. (There’s plenty more in their individual resumes.)

And it probably took many times the effort of what any other successful person would need to apply for these women to achieve their goals. You can imagine the kind of obstacles they faced along the way – attitudes that, even now, manifest in negative opinions of their worth.

But are there still more qualified white lawyers who are Asian or of another race, creed or nationality? Probably. And some are probably smarter than those who currently hold a seat on the Supreme Court. Is “the best in the world” the yardstick here, and is the bar for these women really higher than it would be for others?

Benevolence factor aside, there is little evidence that affirmative action has been effective in ‘leveling the playing field’.

According to the US Department of Labor, black women’s earnings are 63% of non-Hispanic white men’s earnings. Even black women with a graduate degree have a lower median weekly income than white men with only a bachelor’s degree. And black men earn 87 cents for every dollar earned by a white man.

But the family profiles of these women also reflect the rich heritage of one generation shaping the right things for the next.

For example, Ketanji Brown Jackson’s father, Johnny Brown, was an attorney for the Miami-Dade School Board. His mother, Ellery, was a school principal.

Leondra Kruger’s Jamaican mother and Jewish American father were both doctors.

J. Michelle Child’s father, a police officer, died when she was ten years old. Subsequently, her mother, a personnel manager for Michigan Bell Telephone, moved her family to Columbia, South Carolina, as growing crime in Detroit was not conducive to raising a family properly.

You often hear successful people talk about their hard-working parents. Strong values ​​are as likely to be inherited as skin color.

Appointing a black woman to the Supreme Court is a move whose time has come. A Supreme Court that represents as many voices of America as possible is a good thing. It is the same principle that underlies the notion of a fair trial and of a “jury composed of one’s peers”.

The future of black history is shaping up even now. Babysitting programs like affirmative action will never change hearts and minds, but personal responsibility and a relentless drive to succeed can pay big dividends.

Gloria Johns is a columnist for the San Angelo Standard-Times. She can be contacted at

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