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Commentary: New Poll Shows Representation Matters Most To Those Who Are Denied It

Commentary: New Poll Shows Representation Matters Most To Those Who Are Denied It

There’s a new poll out addressing how Americans feel about Joe Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. The results support what we’ve known — representation is important. However, they show something else, too: it’s most important when you’ve been denied representation all along.

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 23: Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on April 23, 2021. Seated from left: Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Standing from left: Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch and Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett. (Photo by Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll shows that over half of Americans think Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman for the next SCOTUS Justice is a big deal. Still, we’ve seen criticism of it from elected officials and media personalities, who have complained that it’s not fair to white people to tell them they’re not in the running this time.

We’ve also seen some double down on the notion that Biden would be nominating Kamala Harris, as though Harris is the only Black woman they can think of who has a background in law.

In fact, that sort of comes to the point: how many Black women can you name who are in prominent judicial positions? It’s not that they don’t exist, but the fact remains that white men are still dominating government and other powerful fields.

That’s why it’s no surprise that the poll shows a racial divide — 63% of Black Americans polled say that this is very important, compared to 33% of Hispanics and only 21% of white Americans. White Americans have typically not experienced a lack of representation, at least not due to skin color.

People of color, though? It’s not just the Supreme Court of the U.S. that’s experiencing a lack. The Brennan Center for Justice looked into state-level Supreme Court demographics and found that as of 2019, 22 states didn’t have a single Justice on their highest courts who identified as a person of color, 28 had no Black Justices, and the stats are even direr for Native Americans and Asian Americans.

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There are no Black justices in 28 states.
There are no Latino justices in 40 states.
There are no Asian Amer­ican justices in 44 states.
There are no Native Amer­ican justices in 47 states.

Across all state high courts, just 17 percent of justices are Black, Latino, Asian Amer­ican, or Native Amer­ican. By contrast, people of color make up almost 40 percent of the U.S. popu­la­tion.

There have been a few changes since 2019, but these numbers are still pretty close to what Americans see when they look for representation in the highest courts — and the new poll suggests that a lot of people who aren’t directly affected, really just don’t consider it important.

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