There were 55 delegates at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, representing a cross-section of interests and perspectives in the country of that time.

APTOPIX Supreme Court Nomination

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson listens during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monda on Capitol Hill in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

They came from 12 of the 13 states. Their ages ranged from 26 to 81. They included farmers and lawyers, soldiers and clergymen – owners of slaves as well as some who knew that slavery was evil. But all of them were men and all of them were white.  And until relatively recently, that’s how it worked.

Over centuries, virtually every historic decision in war and peace was made by white men. Even when they were acting with the very best intentions, their vision was limited and choices were circumscribed because they lacked the benefit of voices different than their own.

We have made great historical strides in which those marginalized voices have been brought to the center. One last remaining giant step began Monday with the start of hearings on the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who would become the first African American woman on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jackson has all of the usual qualifications for someone who aspires to this position: She sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit, where three current justices once sat and a clerk to retiring Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer. She has also been a trial court judge and a federal public defender, which, if she’s confirmed, would make her the first justice ever whose job it was to represent poor people in court.

But the fact that she is also a Black woman makes this nomination historic. People who up until now have been bound by the court’s rulings but not able to influence them will have a voice in the most significant legal issues of our day.


Unlike many of the last Supreme Court nominations, this is not one that will change the balance on the court. President Biden is nominating a liberal judge to replace a liberal justice on a court on which conservatives have a 6-3 majority.

That should remove some of the political pressure that surrounded other recent nominations in which the majority was up for grabs. But because our politics are so polarized, the first day of Jackson’s confirmation hearings were full of Republican senators selectively recounting how the nominees from their party had been treated unfairly.

They promised to grill her on her “judicial philosophy.” One low point came when Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn asked Jackson if she had a “hidden agenda” to “let child predators back to the streets?”

These Republicans say that they want to uphold the reputation of the court, but if they are not careful, they will undermine it.

At a time when the partisan makeup of the federal judiciary has become a political campaign in which millions of dollars are raised and spent to identify and promote candidates who will rule a certain way, a partisan attack on a qualified judge just reinforces the belief that the court is just more politics.

Instead of using their time to try to embarrass Jackson, Biden or Democrats in general, these senators should consider probing what Jackson’s role might be on a court that is already more diverse than any in our history. How would a court with a Black woman on the bench be different from the ones that came before? How would a country with a Black woman interpreting the law through the lens of her experience be better than the one we have now?

People who have been  left out of the process will be paying close attention to these hearings. This could be an inspiring moment for them, if it isn’t poisoned by politics.

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