As the body of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in state at the Supreme Court Building, many will come to pay their final respects and to reflect on her life. I, however, am thinking about the history of the court and the voices that have been absent as justices.
In the 231-year history of the U.S. Supreme Court, the voice of an Asian man or woman, Black woman, or Indigenous man or woman has not been heard as a justice. In an America that is becoming more diverse day-by-day, the nine justices must reflect the U.S. population that they interpret laws to protect and govern. Although it is unlikely that the new justice will be that missing voice, I am not entirely deflated.
If Amy Coney Barrett is nominated and confirmed, she is the adoptive mother of Haitian children, John Peter and Vivian. She will soon learn what many parents of Black children already know – a parent cannot provide enough privilege to offset the discrimination Black children experience in America. She will soon experience John Peter’s transformation from “cute to threat.” Barrett will learn that Vivian will be seen as older and more mature than her White sisters, Emma, age 16, and Tess, age 13. Researchers call this the “adultification” of Black girls. I believe these experiences will influence her jurisprudence, and I am hopeful that it will be in such a way that makes America better for marginalized populations.
I know this sounds idealistic and optimistic. But on this gloomy day, as we mourn Justice Ginsburg, optimism is what I need. I’ll leave you with a quote by Justice Ginsburg,
Her quote applies to my departure from academia to create WISER.
I am excited to share that WISER will partner with Howard University’s Department of Economics to increase diversity in economics. Over the next five years, WISER will coordinate the inclusive, peer, onsite, and distance (IPOD) mentoring for the American Economic Association Summer Training Program, hosted by Howard’s Department of Economics. Amazon is a corporate sponsor of the summer training program and quoted me in its Amazon Science Newsletter.