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The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white

Sunday, January 30, 2022

The Supremes: Why an African American woman is the best person for the job

Many on the Right are outraged that President Biden has said that his main consideration in replacing Justice Breyer is that the next Justice be an African American woman. 

They say the choice should be made on the basis of merit, and I say Yes, on the basis of what best merits the court, not the individual applying to join it.

They say he has preemptively eliminated all white men from consideration, and I say Yes, as well he should!

They say it's just affirmative action, and I say Yes, it's much needed affirmative action to address serious deficiencies in The Court.

Gwen S Cherry Black Women Lawyers Association
What I think they overlook is The Supremes aren't just a collection of nine great legal minds, any one of which could be sent out interchangeably to do a job  because they all have the same knowledge and skill set. Biden isn't adding, say, another truck driver, that like every other truck driver, just needs to be good at the job. 

The Supremes operate as a team. So, the main consideration for Biden should be, as it should be for all of us chiming in from the sidelines, what does the team need? What will make it better at its job? And not who most "merits" being added to the team.

Needless to say, anyone being promoted to this team should have a great legal mind, with a good education, and long experience in our legal and judicial systems, but those represent only the initial qualifications. Fortunately, today there are many people of both sexes and just about any ethnicity that can pass that high bar. Once you have gathered up those thousands of names of people who "merit" being put on the court, the next question must be: What does the court need from this new team member? What are the deficiencies in the skill set or experience of the current court that can be remediated by this new appointment?

All legal experience and expertise are not the same. One would hope that the nine Justices have different legal backgrounds, and some were prosecutors, or defense attorneys, even environmental lawyers, and have experience as judges on a variety of benches. We would not be well served by a Supreme Court that included only Justices that sprung from the world of corporate law. I would hope that all our presidents would take a close look at the current skill set and experience of The Supremes, when picking a new team member, rather than awarding the job to another white male corporate lawyer based on "merit." Such a choice may honor the man so nominated. It would not honor The Court. 

More important than a variety in legal skills is a variety of life experiences. Each will bring a different perspective to the discussions that do so much to shape our world.  It was good of nine men to finally grant women righteous control of their own bodies in Roe v. Wade in 1973. Even that only happened after Justice Marshall added the perspective of an African American to the deliberations. For almost two hundred years before that only white men made Supreme Court decisions.

Ronald Reagan finally added a woman's voice to the deliberations when he fulfilled a campaign promise to put the first woman on The Court if elected. I don't remember the Right raging so much about that. And Trump knew he had better well replace Notorious RBG with a woman so The Court wouldn't be even more tilted went it overthrows Roe v. Wade. 

Trump did announce a qualification for a Supreme Court pick that should be totally unacceptable. He picked a Justice based on a promise to overturn almost 50-years of precedent in a case soon to be before The Court. That goes beyond the pale, and should never had been allowed. For him picking a woman was a question of cover, not team building.

Given that we have a abundance of qualified people, from many diverse backgrounds, that merit appointment to The Court, the last thing it needs is the perspective of another white man. What it clearly needs, given that African American women represent 7% of the US population, and for almost two hundred years that voice has been missing from The Supremes, is a female African American Justice.

So when Biden is taking all this incoming flak for keeping his campaign promise to nominate the first African American Justice, just remember that he is taking it for the Team.

Clay Claiborne