- - Monday, March 14, 2022

Last week President Biden announced his choice to fill Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s seat on the United States Supreme Court, and I could not help but think about Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous words: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

We all want to be judged on the basis of our capabilities and our qualifications, rather than by what we look like. Sadly, however well-intentioned, we have strayed far from King’s dream.

While I applaud Mr. Biden for striving to ensure diversity on the Supreme Court, I struggle with the obvious: that by publicly flaunting his intentions to appoint an African American woman, he has weakened his nominee’s perception.

While I disagree with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s judicial philosophy and on numerous ideological positions, I do not doubt she is an accomplished lawyer and judge worthy of consideration to sit on our highest court. But the pandering on race for political gain has demeaned the significance of her nomination and many Americans will recognize Judge Jackson as an African American and as a woman long before they will recognize her as a competent judge qualified to decide the highest cases in the land.

As an African American woman, I speak from personal experience, and I feel it does a disservice to her lifetime of hard work and I would not want to be put in this situation myself.

As a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, I want all who serve under me to know that I am their commander because of my skills and competence. I appreciate my heritage very much, but similar to each of the rumored applicants, I know that being appointed on the basis of competency brings far more credibility than being appointed on the basis of color of my skin. The American people need to know that the judges handing down decisions that have enormous impact on our nation are the best of the best professionally.

Whether the president is attempting to right past wrongs, like when he led a shameful smear campaign against Justice Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings, or he is attempting to advance his political agenda, specifically the Democratic Party’s attempt to appeal to nonwhite voters, Mr. Biden has taken the focus away from the true qualifications of potential Supreme Court Justices.

Our country is more divided than ever because all politicians seem to do anymore is weaponize our differences for political gain. Extreme polarization and political pandering prevent real discussion of real disparities in America.

We can acknowledge historical injustices without exploiting them for political gain, and we can work together to address lingering disparities today without lowering standards for one group over another or pitting American against American on the basis of race, gender or other differences. Americans deserve better.

We cannot achieve a colorblind society where people are judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin until we acknowledge every life is a gift from God and has value, every individual has his or her own strength and weaknesses, hopes and dreams, and inherent worth, none of which is tied to race.

• Jennifer-Ruth Green is a lieutenant colonel, Air Force Academy graduate and candidate for Congress in Indiana’s 1st Congressional District.  

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