Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Confirmation Is a Consolation Prize

Justin Ward
4 min readApr 8, 2022
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (Wikicango / CC-BY-SA)

After a long series of hearings filled with many frustrating episodes of foolishness from the Republican opposition, Ketanji Brown Jackson was finally confirmed as the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court. It’s a moment as historic as it is inconsequential.

Of course, that’s no knock on Jackson. She has impeccable credentials plus a solid record as a public defender and a sentencing reform advocate. It’s hard to imagine an old-school conservative Democrat like Joe Biden picking someone better.

Referring to Jackson’s confirmation as “inconsequential” doesn’t mean it’s insignificant or unimportant. It’s inconsequential in the most literal sense, i.e., it won’t have major consequences for the court.

Some folks might bristle at this suggestion, but you can’t argue against it.

This uncomfortable truth is acknowledged in the contradictory headline of a New York Times article on Jackson’s confirmation: “Jackson will transform the Supreme Court but will have little power to halt its rightward march in marquee cases.”

Okay. Then in what meaningful sense will Jackson’s confirmation “transform” the Supreme Court? What’s this supposed transformation worth if it does not affect life-and-death landmark cases?

In the best-case scenario, where the Democrats consistently hold on to the presidency and the Senate, how long until there is a liberal or even a moderate majority? A decade? Two?

The smart money is on “never.”

Republicans will press their advantage on the Supreme Court and lower federal courts to gut all remaining voting rights protections. They’ll gerrymander and use every voter suppression tactic in the book to ensure they stay in power.

Jackson’s confirmation is a victory for representation, and that’s not nothing. Undoubtedly, Black children need to have role models in positions of authority and prestige.

Justin Ward

Journalist and activist. Founder and co-chair of DivestSPD. Bylines at SPLC, The Baffler, GEN, USA Today. Follow on Twitter: @justwardoctrine, @DivestSPD