Black women weigh in as Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing progresses

Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing is underway as she makes history as the first Black woman to be nominated for a spot on the Supreme Court.


Courtesy of Mims, Ruffin, and Hoods

(From left to right) Chloe Mims from Partners for Justice, Nakia Ruffin from Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association, and Rhoda Hoods Boca Governor as they lend their voice to the historic nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Kizzy Azcarate, Student Life Editor

Ketanji Brown Jackson could be the second woman of color ever to reside on the Supreme Court of the United States, and the first ever Black woman and public defender to reside over the court.

FAU alumni, students, and legal minds shared their thoughts after Jackson’s first day of her confirmation hearings.

Jackson graduated from Miami Palmetto Senior High School before receiving two degrees from Harvard University. She grew up with a school teacher, now school principal, mother and Miami-Dade school board lawyer father. Former legal aid and FAU alum Melissa Joseph sees Jackson’s Miami upbringing as an advantage.

“I think that it’s pretty awesome because you want a Supreme Court Justice to reflect the whole of the United States demographics, because you want them to have to understand the bias, understand the struggle and the good parts of being Black, brown, Asian, all types of different races and backgrounds,” said Joseph. “You want the Supreme Court Justice to reflect that.”

Prior to the confirmation hearing yesterday, Joseph was aware of microaggressions Jackson would face.

“President Biden picked a Black woman. ‘Is she qualified?’ That kind of irritates me to know because it’s not like she never went to law school,” said Joseph. “Ask her about some of the cases that she tried, not about her LSAT scores. I think it was Tucker Carlson who said that.”

The Judiciary Committee could make Jackson the sixth woman to serve on SCOTUS justices.

“​​It gives me more of a sense of hope and confidence that maybe I can do this one day. If it’s not me, I can show maybe the younger generations because I’m an elementary education major,” said Boca Governor Rhoda Hoods. “It was the same way when President Obama and his family were in office. We have a woman who is the speaker of the house [Nancy Pelosi] nationally, so things of that nature really make it so surreal, and I love it.”

As for legal minds, having a Black woman’s voice on the Supreme Court should not be the only qualification Americans should be focusing on.

Chloe Mims, a strategies and operations manager for Partners for Justice, is cautiously optimistic about Pres. Biden’s SCOTUS nominee. The nonprofit works alongside public defenders’ offices to provide resources for those who are unable to afford legal counsel.

“I’m always gonna be down for Black women but I can’t without a doubt say that,” said Mims. “She could be a ‘Candace Owens’, like I said, I don’t know much about her track record.”

Candace Owens is conservative talk show host and former spokeswoman for Turning Point USA. She has a self-titled talk show on The Daily Wire, conservative network.

However, Mims does believe that with her previous work as a public defender, Jackson may have the ability to shine light on the “horrible” criminal justice system that targets black and brown people.

“Knowing that she’s been a public defender, she’s worked within a community and as a Black woman I’m hoping that she understands how harmful the criminal justice system is and how predatory it is to people,” Mims said.

Nakia Ruffin, president of the Miramar-based Gwen S. Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association, sees Judge Jackson’s confirmation hearing as pushing the needle forward.

“This is generations of hard work and dedication by black people in this country to get a Ketanji Brown Jackson,” said Ruffin. “We’ve had black women being attorneys in this country for over 100 years and do not make it to the Supreme Court.”

Ruffin, as an attorney herself, has mentees who relate to Jackson’s experience as a Black woman seeking a law career.

“[Jackson] had a guidance counselor tell her ‘you know, maybe it’s going to be too hard for you to get into Harvard.’” said Ruffin. “Most of my memories coming across the majority of Black attorneys I’ve talked to at one point have been told ‘you’re not good enough to do that’ or ‘maybe law school isn’t for you.’”

Judge Jackson’s “exemplary” record doesn’t limit her to her two Harvard degrees. She worked as a clerk under recently retired justice, Stephen G. Breyer.

“She [Jackson] is extremely qualified. The bottom line, she checks all the boxes, and you know what, she just happens to be a Black woman,” Ruffin said.

Judge Jackson’s first day of questioning will be airing at 9 a.m. EST until Thursday, March 24.

Kizzy Azcarate is the Student Life Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, tweet her @Kizzy_kinz or [email protected]