Two Steps Back, One Step Forward

Back in 2018, when Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in to the Supreme Court of the United States, my mom started crying. It’s the first nomination I remember. We were driving on California’s characteristically sunny highways and listening to Dr. Blasy-Ford testify against the then-Supreme Court nominee. With each word that came out of her mouth, a tear ran down my mother’s face. My teachers stopped class for the day to project coverage onto the classroom TVs. They kept saying to us, “This is a momentous day for United States history.” I was in seventh grade. I had some semblance of awareness for the world around me, but I didn’t realize the ramifications that day would have on my life and hundreds of millions of others.

I also remember Amy Coney Barrett’s induction. I remember that despite the fact that she was a woman, she had worked for much of her career to restrict abortion rights. It felt like in the course of her confirmation, the minds of so many Americans were clouded with the election and Covid-19 that no real attention was paid to her induction into the Supreme Court. Her process was rushed along with urgency to fill a spot that had once belonged to a pioneer and a role model for millions of women—including myself—Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Since their nominations, it has felt like the world has slid to chaos.

Take abortion, for example. There are countless laws in countless states restricting abortion clinics, the weeks in which you are able to get an abortion, and even efforts to prosecute those who seek out mail-in abortion pills. In some states you can sue someone, and anyone who aided them, for getting an abortion.

There’s also the all out assault on transgender rights. Children are being barred from discussing their identity, learning about other sexualities and other identities. If they have non-heterosexual, non-heteroromantic, or non-cisgender parents or family members, they will not be able to discuss their family life in Florida. There is a war on what we had often considered to be human rights, constitutionally-backed rights.

And because so many of these issues are dictated by courts, or can work their way up to the Supreme Court, it is imperative that a reliable and just court sits on the highest bench in this land. It is of greatest importance that qualified and fair people interpret these life and death laws. That they read and interpret the Constitution with dignity, with justice. They must read each stanza and amendment, paying careful attention to the nuances. These are foundational rights in a modernized society.

When Joe Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson, it felt like the moral compass of this country came a little closer to home. With Jackson’s qualifications and fairness, it feels like the Supreme Court might once again be something that stands for the people and the Constitution. After paying close attention to her confirmation coverage, watching skeptics throw accusations in her face, watching her handle them with dignity, I felt refreshed. On Thursday, when I got the Apple News notification on my phone, I was expecting an article about something random. When I read it, however, I almost started crying at the notice of her Supreme Court induction.

I thought back to that day in the car, with my mom and my sister, on the way to school. That day for me, was when I really started to understand how democracy would affect my life. I started to be concerned about the hundreds of millions of people affected by a new Supreme court justice. But on Thursday, it was a different sort of realization. I know that the vote was close—too close—but for me, it felt like a moment when I could exhale. Our system has its flaws. It has many, many flaws. However, this qualified woman can still be nominated for and inducted into this position of the utmost honor and integrity. She handles herself with grace and embodies fairness. Thursday was a new perspective represented on the Supreme Court. Staring at my phone, I thought about that for a moment. I considered what my life would look like, now that another woman, the first Black woman in history, sat on the bench.