Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s SCOTUS Confirmation And The Unfinished Business Of Criminal Justice Reform

On Thursday, history was made when Judge Ketanji Brown-Jackson was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court

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On Thursday, history was made when Judge Ketanji Brown-Jackson was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming the first Black woman to ascend to the highest court in America. But does this confirmation portend positive change for Black America’s relationship to the criminal justice system?

Judge Jackson became only the third African-American to be seated on the Court—that’s assuming you’re one of those who still considers Justice Clarence Thomas to be anything more than a white man wearing blackface, who replaced legendary liberation lawyer Justice Thurgood Marshall.

There is indeed much to celebrate regarding soon to be Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation. Her victory is ours and should be used as a source of inspiration, especially for Black girls who must navigate both racism and sexism in patriarchal America.

However, this confirmation must not blind us to this sobering reality: America’s criminal justice system is still criminalizing and destroying many African-Americans with frequency and regularity. Moreover, there is a whitelash effort currently afoot against minor criminal justice reforms that have taken place in the last few years.

A couple things that happened this week, as Judge Jackson was about to be confirmed, should remind us of the monumental task that still lays ahead of us regarding achieving substantive groundbreaking change to this institutionally prejudicial justice system.

One was the decision by Minnesota prosecutors not to indict the killer-cop who awoke Amir Locke during a no-knock raid and executed the innocent young man by shooting him to death.

Locke not only joined the never-ending list of Black people unjustly killed by American policing but is one of several Blacks who were killed either while sleeping or inside their homes like: Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson–and former Marine Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. to name just a few. Locke’s family, like so many others, has received no accountability from those who talk a good game about the “rule of law.” Locke was killed with reckless disregard by their state-sanctioned “peace officers.” 

Despite the national, and international, uproar for change and accountability, that happened in the aftermath of George Floyd’s execution in broad-daylight, little progress has been made in stopping American police violence against Black people. And the idea of police accountability is still largely an aberration except for a handful of cases.

Disgracefully, the push to pass the George Floyd policing bill was killed with help from another Black skin traitor: South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who was dispatched by his white Republican massas to spearhead the sabotage effort. Scott and Republicans stalled for time waiting for the protest fervor to die down so that they could then say there was an irreconcilable impasse caused by Democrats. Scott used his Black skin to give cover to the failed from the start endeavor while he parroted nonsense about the Democrats wanting only to “defund the police.”

Unfortunately, many Democrats are also fleeing from this slogan themselves as an excuse to retreat from the fight to bring about needed changes in policing. These career first politicians are exploiting the simplicity of the slogan to pretend that those using it are calling for the full defunding and abolishing of the police. This is because they are not committed to really tackling the root causes of most crime which are manifestations of economic inequality and disinvestment. This is especially essentially the case in Black America.

White America has always used African-Americans as the scapegoats and face of American criminality—and have economically cannibalized us in the process with their targeted tickets, summonses, and arrest quotas, which are beneficial to their budgets. You think these exploiters are about to just give that all up without us keeping our proverbial knees in their necks?

This leads us to the disingenuous debate ongoing regarding bail reform that has been use as a red herring by police apologists, and their political operatives, to explain the increase in crime.

In New York, Governor Kathy Hochul pushed for reform of the bail reform law that was just passed a couple years ago. Hochul is no doubt engaging in political pandering to gain support from corrupt and dishonest police unions as she embarks on her re-election campaign.

Ever since the bail reform law when into effect, a disinformation crusade has been launched to propagandize the false contention that it is one of the causes for the increases in crime. Where is the evidence to back up this bogus claim?

What is really going on here is that many of these fraudulent folks, who make money and boost their careers off terrorizing Black people, are just unhappy that it has gotten a little harder to abuse us. This is largely because of the public’s intrusion into the business-as-usual victimization of our people in the last several years. Many of them must now look over their backs to make sure their criminal behavior towards us is not being documented to be disseminated to the public.

Recently, New York Mayor Eric Adams made the head-scratching statement that citizens filming police had “gotten out of control.” What did Adams really mean? “Gotten out of control” how? Police getting exposed too much by civilian videos documenting them perpetrating crimes against Blacks?

Adams has also been one of those complaining about bail reform and made noise when he first took office about Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg’s decision that he would not waste tax-payer dollars by prosecuting low-level crime. Somehow, this was very upsetting to Adams. And Adams is now proving how tough on crime he can be as a Black mayor by busting up homeless encampments.

Lately, there is a lot of talk about the rise of violent crime particularly gun crimes. However, many politicians and press pundits are apparently mystified about the reasons for the spike in crime.

The idea that decades of severe economic inequality combined with a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic could be the answer must surely not be seriously entertained. Only leftist kooks could really believe such a thing. Of course, honesty has never been the best policy in American society, especially as it relates to the topics of economics and race.

Once again, we now have a new set of politicians again pledging to get tough on crime including Democratic politicians who claim to care for Black people. But they are peddling nothing more than the same failed prescriptions (not much different from the white supremacist Republican Party) to fight crime which means more criminalization and incarceration for Black Americans.

This is where we are in 2022 in America.

The confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is an important milestone. But it sadly does not change the reality that the criminal justice still targets the majority of Black people—who look just like her—as grist for the mill of America’s institutionally racist and unjust legal system.

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