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President Joe Biden nominated a real one for the soon-to-be-open seat on the Supreme Court—the Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal appellate judge who, if confirmed, would be the first Black woman to serve on the highest court in the land since its inception 233 years ago.
Read that again.
More than two-and-a-quarter centuries under the Supreme Court’s belt, a Black woman hadn’t even been nominated for, much less seated on, the bench, and now, here comes a sistah with an arsenal of credentials for the gig: Harvard Law grad. Former public defender. Practicing private attorney. Trial Judge. The vice chair and commissioner of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Former clerk for the retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, whom, if confirmed, Judge Jackson would replace. And brown skin on a human who identifies as a woman.

The last of those qualifications, pledged by then-presidential candidate Biden when he needed a little razzle dazzle—i.e., the political might of the Black female voting bloc—for his lackluster campaign, is the most perfect icing on this Supreme Court nomination cake for reasons that are beyond obvious to those of us who know what it means to be Black and woman in America and are anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court gavel drop on cases concerning voting rights, affirmative action and reproductive justice for women. No one can guarantee that a Supreme Court Judge Jackson will fall on the progressive side of decision-making every time cases that directly affect the lives of Black women go before the court. But it is safe to expect that this Black woman, the daughter of public school teachers, from a family of cops and at least one high-profile convicted uncle, who defended the indigent in court and successfully oversaw the reduction of what were considered overzealous prison sentences for drug-related offenders, and who also is the mother of two Black girls, will bring a different perspective to cases brought before a Supreme Court that for 31 years has been depending on Clarence Thomas, an ultra-conservative African American judge whose judicial decisions always manage to make it seem like he absolutely abhors both Black people and women, for a Black perspective on jurisprudence.
Of course, there are many a fool out here proclaiming Judge Jackson’s nomination a problem. Supporters of The Man Who Was Not My President have been all up and down the cable news dial ranting about just how awful it is that Biden considered only Black women for the position. Tucker Carlson, Fox News’ minister of always-hot-and-bothered-and-loud-and-wrong, went so far as to say Biden’s choice humiliates and degrades America’s “ancient institutions” because the president chose a candidate “not on the basis of skill or wisdom or fealty to the founding documents of the United States, but on the basis of the way the person looks,” sending “a very clear message that you don’t like the country you run and you don’t care about the institutions that its ancestors built.”
Bro said this with a straight face, like this country wasn’t literally built on the backs and by the hands of Judge Jackson’s Black ancestors, done wrong for centuries by the decisions of a Supreme Court bench occupied almost exclusively by white men who decided from said bench that segregation was a go, Jim Crow was completely okay, separate but equal (even though it was grossly unequal) totally should be a thing, and, more recently, that laws obliterating a woman’s right to her own bodily autonomy and Black people’s rights to vote are it as far as the court is concerned.
What’s more: the implication amongst naysayers like him and other loud-mouthed-and-wrong Republicans that Biden’s focus on his nominee’s skin color and gender somehow makes her less-than are not only blowing that same tired, racist dog whistle they have glued their lips, but all putting on front street that they either don’t know or are famously ignoring that ol’ African American adage that we Black folk “have to be twice as good to get half as much as the whites.”
And isn’t that the gag? That Black supernovas like Jackson can be so easily dismissed precisely because of her skin color, no matter that she’s spent a lifetime working, earning, sweating, excelling in ways that make moments like these possible? No matter that she can run circles around the very people putting her down?
The dismissiveness of Jackson’s accomplishments precisely because of her skin color is familiar—typical. It’s the same argument that’s got a chokehold on affirmative action, the program that, for decades, has sought to even the playing field for people traditionally locked out of everything from college admissions to workplaces to government contracts and more because of their race, disabilities, gender, sexual orientation, age and ethnic origin. Of course, with a conservative majority mucking up the swamp that’s become the Supreme Court, the landmark program is likely to be struck down, ushered before the justices by those who use that same wrongheaded logic as Tucker annem: any Black person who got an extra look because of their skin color can’t be right for the school/job/contract and doesn’t have what it takes to succeed—an argument that’s dumb as hell.
What that screwy logic refuses to take into account is that affirmative action hires tend to be some of the baddest students/employees for their positions. Nobody’s pulling slouches. When I won a college scholarship and a series of summer internships from Long Island Newsday and an internship and job from The Associated Press—an award and positions that were part of an industry-wide system of affirmative action programs designed to bring some semblance of racial parity in the newsroom—I was chosen because I was Black, yes, but I was also cherry-picked from hundreds of applicants because I had a clear-eyed focus on being a journalist.
Contrary to all of the foolish arguments used to smack down the effectiveness of Affirmative Action, I am not dumb. I was one of the brightest kids in my graduating class.
I was not “handed” a job. I worked hard and earned it.
I did not take up some coveted position that kept a white journalist from earning a position. In fact, in every job I worked at, save for my three-year-stint at the black-owned Honey magazine, I was usually the only African American in the room most years, and one of, like, two, in the extra special times when my employers were feeling especially benevolent.
What I was—and am—is bad ass. And valuable. And Newsday and The Associated Press had the foresight to recognize this when I was just a kid, and certainly when they needed me most.
Be clear: had it not been for Newsday’s Minorities in Communications program and The Associated Press’s Minority Internship Program, there would be no Denene Millner, New York Times bestselling author and award-winning journalist. There would be no 31 books under my belt, no national magazine covers and columns. No Emmy Award-nominated TV show, or award winning children’s book imprint.
More importantly, the value that I brought to each of my jobs—as a news and political reporter for The AP, as a political and entertainment journalist for The Daily News, as a features editor at Parenting—would have been missing. See, I took it as my personal mission to bring a different perspective to the otherwise lily-white newsrooms and editorial offices of my previous employers—to remind through word, deed, stories and assignments that the readership consisted of much more than monied white men and their housewives. My journalistic instincts to cover news from a distinctly African American perspective not only earned me accolades, but served a vastly underserved audience that craves voices that speak to their experience—that understand its import.
This did not rob white readers of the day’s news; it added to their perspective—helped open their eyes to something new. The people who hired me always understood that, no matter what anyone else had to say about my skin color or the doors it opened.
The same for Supreme Court hopeful Jackson. With that resume, and those experiences, and that background—yes, the background of a Black woman in modern-day America, who knows the struggles and lives within the caste system and understands politics and knows the law and has banged her gavel and judged from her bench—she stands at the ready to get the ultimate gig because she is Black, yes, but also because she a most perfect person to don that robe.
Fly Black girl. Fly.
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