The confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court — making her the first African American woman to serve on the nation’s highest court — was a historic moment, Allegheny County President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark said.
Judge Clark would know about historic moments: She is the first African American to serve as president judge of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
But to Judge Clark, and many others in Pittsburgh’s Black community, the confirmation of Judge Jackson on Thursday meant more than history. It symbolized that African Americans — especially girls and women — can accomplish great things, they said.
“Judge Jackson is a brilliant jurist who is highly qualified for this position,” Judge Clark said Thursday. “This is an historic moment for our nation. Judge Jackson will be a living example and inspiration for African American girls and women of what they can achieve.”
While many of the city’s Black political and community leaders pointed out the significance of having a Black woman on the Supreme Court, they also noted Judge Jackson’s qualifications and the grace she displayed under the pressure of aggressive questioning during her confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate.
State Rep Summer Lee, D-Swissvale, said in a statement that she once again celebrated “the power of overqualified Black women in this country to overcome every obstacle thrown our way.
“Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation is a long overdue moment for the Supreme Court to gain the diversity of viewpoints and background that it has glaringly lacked historically,” Ms. Lee said. “Black women deserve to not only have someone that looks like us on the Supreme Court, but someone who approaches the law and our justice system from the deeply rooted adversity that every single one of us are all too familiar with.”
Ms. Lee, though, noted the hostility Judge Jackson faced during her confirmation hearing, saying that “it was shameful to watch Republican senators dog whistle and harass Judge Jackson throughout this confirmation hearing, and they do not deserve to hold the seats they occupy.”
Esther Bush, who retired last year after nearly three decades at the helm of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, said she did not know much about Judge Jackson before President Joe Biden nominated her for the Supreme Court.
However, Ms. Bush said she was not surprised by Judge Jackson’s ability to keep her composure while facing antagonistic questioning from some Republican senators.
“When a Black woman gets to where she is right now sitting in that seat, I already know that everything that she says and does is tight and appropriate,” Ms. Bush said. “And I’m not putting her above anybody. I am saying I’m positive she has already fought a good fight, and she was not going to do anything different at this peak in her career and for America.”
Ms. Bush said she got “chill bumps” thinking about how Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Black woman to serve as vice president, presided over the confirmation of Judge Jackson.
We should have reached this moment a long time ago, Ms. Bush said. But, she concluded, we are here now.
She said it is important for Americans to embrace the change that the country is going through instead of trying to hold back progress.
“The reality is there, they can’t change it,” Ms. Bush said. “All this gerrymandering and stuff, they don’t even care if they get caught. And all these things do tie into her appointment. It’s all a part of where America is, and where America is going.”
The new CEO of the Urban League, Carlos T. Carter, said it was time to have the voice of a Black woman on the Supreme Court.
“It’s just a sign of some progress we’re having,” he said. “We have a long way to go as a country, but she’s a bright spot for sure, and a beacon of hope for all Black girls and Black people and all people to know that there is light.”
Mayor Ed Gainey congratulated Judge Jackson for “shattering the proverbial glass ceiling.”
“Her confirmation represents a milestone opportunity for our democracy to acknowledge the leadership Black women have always exhibited,” Mr. Gainey said in a statement.
Judge Jackson’s confirmation speaks to what’s best in America, said City Councilman Ricky Burgess, who also noted the importance of having a Black woman on the Supreme Court.
“On this historic and significant day, I am almost moved to tears,” Mr. Burgess said. “This elevation of Judge Jackson is a tangible and concrete symbol that African American women have status and significance in this country.”
When asked about his reaction upon hearing that Judge Jackson had been confirmed Thursday, Mr. Burgess simply said “Finally.”
State Rep. Austin Davis, D-McKeesport, said the first person he voted for after turning 18 in 2008 was Barack Obama.
Mr. Obama’s election as president, Mr. Davis said, was the first time that he realized he could run for office. He said that the confirmation of Judge Jackson to the Supreme Court may provide a similar revelation to young Black girls.
“If you’ve never seen a school teacher or a lawyer that looks like you, it’s hard to believe that you can do it, that you would be the person to [do] it,” Mr. Davis said. “Representation really does matter.”
Andrew Goldstein: email@example.com.
First Published April 7, 2022, 7:55pm