The past couple of weeks have been eerily strange in the African American community. With the Will and Jada Pinkett Smith debacle aside, there are other historic lows and highs.
The most incredible and satisfying high was the confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court of the United States! Her confirmation represents the very first time in its 233-year history that an African American woman will serve on the SCOTUS. This is no small feat.
Justice Jackson, who will be seated when Justice Stephen Breyer retires, represents what can happen when a person identifies a goal and pursues it relentlessly. There are articles circulating from Justice Jackson’s high school days where she shared her goal of becoming a lawyer and acquiring a judicial appointment. She achieved those goals.
There were overwhelming odds, but she persevered and actually made her dream come true. It’s too bad that her attitude can’t be bottled and given to every African American youth in the United States. The next best thing, however, is for adults to point out her accomplishments as testimony that it is possible to achieve lofty goals!
Sadly, one of the footnotes of this accomplishment, a low point, is the decision of the Republican Party, with very few exceptions, to attempt to thwart Justice Ketanji’s appointment. Pundits have pointed out that she is one of the most qualified individuals appointed to serve on the SCOTUS.
Yet with all of her brilliance and panache, there were Republicans who opposed her merely because they did not want her seated. Rather than vote for her, many Republicans actually vacated the chambers during the confirmation proceedings! And embarrassingly, one of those to do so was the African American Republican Senator from South Carolina, Tim Scott.
What was going through the mind of a Black man who would pass up the opportunity to vote for one of his kind, an uber-qualified African American woman, to serve on the SCOTUS? What rationale lurks in the brain of a person to embrace such an unpopular opinion? How could he bring himself to do what was illogical? Does he care about what history will say about him? Is it money that is his muse? Does he believe that opposing Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s appointment was the right thing to do?
Another tree from that seemingly same ideological branch is connected to an African American justice who has served on the court for 30 years: Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Thomas entered the court through embattled circumstances. In famous hearings he was accused of sexual harassment by a colleague, Anita Hill, an African American lawyer. Justice Thomas famously considered the proceedings to be a “high tech lynching,” and he was subsequently seated in spite of very strong allegations.
Hindsight has shown that Justice Thomas has not been what can be called a bright jewel in the crown of African American achievement. His performance has come across as lackluster, at best, especially if he is compared to the Justice whose place he took, the venerable Thurgood Marshall. Justice Thomas can be seen as the antithesis of Marshall; he seems to have zero love for the Black community, and is one of the most conservative justices serving on the SCOTUS.
Recently, and surprising, it was revealed that Justice Thomas’s wife, Virginia Thomas, who just happens to be white, has been identified as allegedly part of a conspiracy to overthrow the government during the January 6 insurrection. Pundits opine that Justice Thomas should have recused himself from any proceedings related to the committee that has been formed to examine what happened during that fateful day, and he has come under fire for that reason.
Black people have made great strides in America, but what can be said about those few Blacks who disdain their own kind and actually bond with the enemy?
Sure, some will say we all have an opinion, and it’s our right to exercise it. That’s what a democracy demands. But prudence dictates that you try as much as possible to consider the impact of your actions on others.
Embracing those who do not respect you or your people is a travesty. More importantly, it smacks of a special kind of stupidity. We have got to do better! A Luta Continua.