NEW YORK (AP), -- Jasmine Marchbanks, a law student, likes to walk the halls of Howard University and look at the photos of Black graduates from decades ago, even though the pressure can get intense.
"It's really inspiring to see people who look like me that went to this university and became lawyers," said the first-year student. Her great-great grandmother was born into slavery. "So, when I feel stressed, I love to go down here and look through all the names and see all of the faces.
The majority of the faces are male. Marchbanks-Owens takes a photo of Pauli Murray, a prominent female graduate from 1944 whose legal theories influenced Brown vs. Board of Education (argued by Thurgood Marshall, future Supreme Court justice). Murray wrote a letter to Richard Nixon in 1971. This was mostly tongue-in-cheek, but it suggested that Nixon make Murray the first woman on this court. Black women have historically been the backbone for social justice movements, Marchbanks Owens argues. They've been invisible. It's because of this that she finds it so meaningful that a Black woman will soon be elected to the Supreme Court.
She says, "It's something I never thought would happen." It definitely matters.
Marchbanks-Owens (26 years old) is one of many Black women who have been encouraged by President Joe Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman for the court. She's just like them, but she's also discouraged by the talk of Sens. Roger Wicker from Mississippi and Ted Cruz of Texas have sought to minimize the appointment as discriminating towards white people.
Marchbanks-Owens claims that these critics are backward. She says Black women have to work harder to achieve success in an overwhelmingly white profession. Biden's Black woman will end up being appoint, she said, adding that "probably everyone else on the bench is going to be more qualified than us because... we have learned how to be the best qualified." You must be more qualified to get a position or a place at the table.
Jasmine Armand is in agreement. Armand says that the first-year bankruptcy lawyer at Chicago's law firm does not want anyone to believe that she got the job because she is Black. Instead, she believes she got it because she is exceptional and extremely qualified for this role, as many Black women have done before her.
Armand stated that she was inspired by Malcolm X's view that the Black woman is "the least protected person" in America. It is a true statement that I still believe. It's often difficult to find someone who really cares about Black women and advocates for them. We are worthy to be protected, admired, invested in, and encouraged. It would be wonderful to see the appointee get this and be able to give it to others.
Armand, a 29-year-old Black woman, believes that the ascension to the highest court of justice of a Black woman will have a significant impact on people's access and use of justice. She says it "is more than just getting people connected with resources." It's "Who is the arbiter justice?"
Interviews with women of all ages revealed a common theme. Just the sight of a Black woman on the Court would have an incalculable impact, especially on young people. This could be like Kamala Harris becoming the vice president or Barack Obama becoming the first Black president. Jemelleh Coes was the director of teacher leadership at Mount Holyoke College. She thought about the impact it would have on her daughters, nine and two.
Coes, 36, a Georgian who lives in Athens said, "I am raising them so they can become as bold as possible, as thoughtful and as caring as possible, as empowering as you can be." "To be able look at other women who are in power for them it is paramount," she said. She also noted that her 9-year old daughter was captivated by Stacey Abrams 2018 campaign for governor. She said, "I see how they look at Black women who are in power." It's quite different to the way they view power in general.
Jakki McIntosh (35), a California mother, hopes that the appointment will reinforce what she has told her daughters, ages 16, 15, and 11. Jakki McIntosh, 35, from California, hopes that the appointment will reinforce what she tells her daughters, ages 16, 15 and 11.
McIntosh, a Black woman who serves on the Supreme Court, would challenge the notion that they are less capable. McIntosh lives in Colusa and has a three-year-old son. She says that women often see Black women as less capable than men, and, unfortunately, Black women are seen as even less.
Jessica Davis, a University of Georgia Law School first-year student, recalls as a child wanting to be president. Her teacher was a different opinion. "I recall my teacher telling me that I should be more realistic and to think about something else. It would be easier and more up my alley, she said."
It is amazing to think about a Black woman sitting on the Supreme Court. This court was the one that upheld slavery in the Dred Scott decision. The same court that stated that we can be'separate, but equal'.
Marchbanks-Owens, back at Howard's Washington, D.C., law school campus, also thought about the nation's slavery legacy when she heard that Biden was planning to nominate a Black woman. She also thought of her great-great grandmother, whom she claims was born into slavery in South Carolina.
She says, "When I think of a Black woman sitting on the bench and when it comes to the legacy of slavery, it's very profound for me."
She also recalls that her grandparents were astonished when Obama was elected president. In my lifetime, I have seen Kamala Harris become vice-president, and now I will see someone who is similar to me become a Supreme Court justice."
Marchbanks-Owens knows exactly what she would say to the new justice.
She said, "I think your story's just amazing," and she would tell it. "And I'm glad to be alive in a time when something like this is possible, for someone like me. ... I would love to learn from you. I would love to be mentored and learn from you."