OPINION | Who benefits from Biden’s Supreme Court nomination?

Doxey Kamara, Intersections Editor

California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger (L) and U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (R), two frontrunners for Joe Biden’s Supreme Court nominees. (Wikimedia Commons)

Among the promises President Biden has made to Americans, such as forgiving student loans and decriminalizing marijuana, he also pledged to nominate a Black woman to the United States Supreme Court. Following his election and the impending retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer, Biden announced his nominee would be revealed before the end of February. 

While Biden claims that such a pick is “long overdue,” some — such as Senator Ted Cruz — view the move as demeaning. ”You know, Black women are what, 6 percent of the US population? He’s saying to 94 percent of Americans, ‘I don’t give a damn about you, you are ineligible.’” Cruz went on to say that the decision was insulting to Black women as well.

Partisan snipes aside, some might wonder what such a nomination would accomplish. On the surface, it may seem shallow or performative — a way for Biden to win over much-needed voter support. Outside of making a more inclusive Supreme Court, what do Americans really stand to gain from having a Black woman serving as a justice?

Supporters of this decision draw emphasis to the impact of the late Thurgood Marshall, the first Black justice on the Supreme Court, as an example. Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the Court, said that “Justice Marshall imparted not only his legal acumen but also his life experiences, constantly pushing and prodding us to respond not only to the persuasiveness of legal argument but also to the power of moral truth.”

In the same way that Justice Marshall impacted Justice O’Connor’s understanding of racial disparities in the U.S., a Black woman serving on the Supreme Court would have the opportunity to influence her colleagues.

While perspective is valuable on its own, Black women represent only 7% of the U.S. It may seem like such a perspective would only benefit a small portion of Americans, so why is there such great emphasis being placed on a Black woman being nominated to the Supreme Court — particularly when she would not alter the conservative majority? 

The importance mostly lies in the major issues which will be discussed in the Supreme Court soon: abortion, voting and affirmative action ranking among them. Each ruling will impact every American, and her unique input may sway opinions on the court in the same way Justice Marshall’s did.

The landmark nomination would also set a precedent that would allow future Presidents to nominate non-white women to the court without facing heightened scrutiny. Because race is a clear factor in this nomination, and that factor is more openly addressed than it was during the appointment of the 107 white men on said court, it is assumed that this nomination is to meet a quota and not the needs of the American people.

However, the benefit to the average American does not simply come from the identity of the nominee. Her ability to influence and inform the other members, particularly on matters they may otherwise be uniformed on, could substantially influence rulings during her term.