This Black History Month, our community has many reasons to celebrate, as well as new challenges and opportunities that demand our strongest efforts.
Black history is being made right now, especially in our judicial system; I fully support President Joe Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by Justice Stephen Breyer when he retires later this summer.
Appointing the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court will be historic, and quite frankly, it should have happened a long time ago. President Biden’s judicial appointments represent years of advocacy from the Black community to ensure greater representation on the courts, and we should all celebrate this accomplishment.
So far, in his first year in office, President Biden has had 40 federal judges confirmed in a sharply divided Senate. This is more judicial confirmations in the first year of any administration since President Ronald Reagan. Nearly 75% of President Biden’s nominees have been women, and 65% have been people of color.
This compares with President Donald Trump’s 226 judges over four years, who were overwhelmingly white and male.
America’s courts must reflect all Americans if we are to truly achieve equal justice under the law. This need for more diverse appointments includes critical roles like prosecutors and U.S. attorneys, who determine which cases will be brought forward and which will be dismissed. Some call this prosecutorial discretion, and unfortunately, we have seen how this power has often been used unfairly in our communities. That’s why I was pleased to work with the Biden administration to support the confirmation of two outstanding nominees to serve as U.S. attorneys for Indiana.
We made history when Clifford Johnson and Zachary Myers became the first two Black men confirmed as U.S. attorneys for the Hoosier State.
America desperately needs more diverse judges and prosecutors. We especially need a Black woman’s perspective on the highest court in the land. Black women are superheroes who work tirelessly to support our families and communities, yet are often ignored and maligned. Having a justice on the Supreme Court who knows this struggle personally won’t instantly solve the systematic inequalities Black women face, but it will be a giant step forward.
Increasing the diversity on the Supreme Court, and on all courts, will be a huge benefit to Black and brown Americans. Our community continues to face immense challenges and serious threats to our rights and safety.
For example, our right to vote is at great risk right now, as Republican-controlled states, like Indiana, continue to pass voter suppression laws that make it harder for people of color to cast a ballot. A big reason why these bills are getting passed is because of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 2013 case, Shelby v. Holder. That decision severely weakened the 1965 Voting Rights Act — a law that dramatically expanded enfranchisement for African Americans in the South and across America. Our community knows how vital this law is to us, and how much people sacrificed to get it passed. We need more justices on the Supreme Court, and all courts, who understand that our basic rights are not up for debate or interpretation. We need someone who knows that America is still far from color-blind, and understands that persistent discrimination is not a legal hypothesis.
The recent bomb threats against many historically black colleges and universities also underscore the fact that our community remains a target for violent white supremacists. As a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, I’m working with our chairman, Adam Schiff, to investigate these attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice. This is part of my ongoing work to ensure the intelligence community focuses more of its attention and resources to stopping domestic terrorism and violent white extremists.
Building a more diverse judiciary is critical to this effort. I’m sick and tired of seeing right-wing domestic terrorists and vigilantes receive a slap on the wrist at worst for the heinous crimes they commit. We desperately need judges who take these acts of violence and intimidation seriously and administer the justice that Black and brown victims deserve.
These are just a few ways that increasing Black and brown representation in the courts will improve the well-being of our community now and for generations to come. I stand ready to continue my work with President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to fulfill their commitment to achieving this on our highest court, and at every level of our justice system.
Rep. Carson represents the 7th District of Indiana. He is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and one of three Muslims in Congress. Rep. Carson sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, where he is chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence and Counterproliferation. Contact Rep. Carson at carson.house.gov/contact.