‘We have come a long way’: Justice-to-be Ketanji Brown Jackson

Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman ever confirmed to the United States Supreme Court, has said her appointment marks a “moment in which all Americans can take great pride” – but one that holds special significance given the country’s history of slavery and segregation.

During a ceremony at the White House alongside President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday, Jackson quoted US poet Maya Angelou’s famous, Still I Rise, poem, saying: “I am the dream and the hope of the slave.”

“I strongly believe that this is a moment in which all Americans can take great pride. We have come a long way toward perfecting our union. In my family, it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States,” she said.

“And it is an honour – the honour of a lifetime – for me to have this chance to join the court, to promote the rule of law at the highest level, and to do my part to carry our shared project of democracy and equal justice under law forward into the future.”

The ceremony came a day after the US Senate voted 53-47 in favour of Jackson’s nomination, making her not only the first Black woman to serve as Supreme Court justice, but also only the third Black American to join the high court.

Jackson’s confirmation process highlighted deep partisan divisions in the US, with Republicans seeking to paint the longtime jurist and US appeals court judge as a left-wing “radical”, while Democrats stood staunchly behind her.

While most Republicans on Thursday voted against her joining the top court, three GOP senators – Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Utah’s Mitt Romney – backed Jackson, effectively sealing her nomination in the evenly divided chamber.

Jackson, who last year was appointed to the US Court of Appeals, had received support for her Supreme Court nomination from a wide array of stakeholders in the US, including civil rights groups, law enforcement agencies and state attorneys general.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said her confirmation marked “a joyous day” for the country, while Vice President Kamala Harris also said it was an “historic” moment.

The former president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, also congratulated Jackson, saying, “The world witnessed history yesterday with the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to serve on the US Supreme Court”.

“Her confirmation is already inspiring a generation of young women to follow in her footsteps,” Sirleaf said on Twitter.

US President Joe Biden is hoping to seize on Jackson’s confirmation to build political momentum before November mid-term elections [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

During Friday’s ceremony, which was attended by Democratic lawmakers and others, US President Joe Biden said Jackson’s confirmation would be remembered as “a moment of real change in American history”.

“Yesterday, we all witnessed a truly historic moment,” Biden said of Jackson’s confirmation vote in the US Senate.

“After more than 20 hours of questioning at her hearing[s] and nearly 100 meetings … we all saw the kind of justice she’ll be,” he added. “Fair and impartial, thoughtful, careful, precise, brilliant – a brilliant legal mind with deep knowledge of the law and a judicial temperament … that’s calm and in command.”

Jackson’s appointment comes at a difficult moment for the Biden administration, which is facing public discontent about rising prices and other issues before the mid-term elections in November, Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett reported from Washington.

“Not only is there a sour mood among the American public as it continues to emerge out of COVID-19, but there’s frustration over the ongoing price hikes that have occurred, the 40-year high when it comes to inflation … a sluggish economy, and the war in Ukraine,” said Halkett, explaining that this has translated into slumping approval ratings for Biden.

“He really needs a victory, and he sees this as a victory – and that’s why there’s a bit of politics at play here, as well. Of course, this is a historic occasion, but the president [is] also hoping to seize some momentum politically on this.”

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