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Biden’s Court Pick Ketanji Brown Jackson Navigated a Path Few Black Women Have

Source:The Washington Post

When Ketanji Brown Jackson was a student at Harvard, one of her classmates draped a Confederate battle flag outside his dorm window in the middle of Harvard Yard, the center of the university’s campus.

Jackson, who was active in the Black Students Association, helped plan rallies and circulate petitions to protest the university’s response, and later joined in calls to hire more faculty in the African American studies department. She wore black instead of the school’s crimson and white to an annual Harvard-Yale football game as part of a demonstration to “embarrass the university in front of the alumni,” Jackson told the local newspaper in 1990.

Three decades later, Jackson, who is President Biden’s pick to replace Merrick Garland on the influential federal appeals court in Washingtonrecalled thinking it was unfair that in addition to being victimized and getting little support from the university, Black students missed classes and “could not just be regular students” while protesting the flag display.

It was, she told aspiring Black lawyers at a dinner in her honor at the University of Chicago last year, what the student who unfurled the Confederate flag had wanted: “For us to be so distracted that we failed our classes and thereby reinforced the stereotype that we couldn’t cut it at a place like Harvard.”

Jackson recounted the story in one of many speeches she has given in recent years to law students and young professionals of color to illuminate how she has quickly negotiated a path that very few Black women in America have.

If Jackson is confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, she would join just five other Black women out of 286 judges currently sitting on a federal appeals court bench — often a proving ground for the Supreme Court. Biden’s nominee for the Chicago-based appeals court, Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, would bring the total number to seven if both women are confirmed.

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