In the predominantly conservative state of Alabama, nine black women have been elected as judges. This is big news as Alabama has been described as the “the state where racism is enshrined in the constitution.”
They also were the last state to overturn its ban on interracial marriage, were the highest supported state in banning gay marriage, and opposed to removing segregationist language in the State’s constitution, which still requires separate schools for white and “colored children.”
One of the newly-elected judges, Javan Patton a Civil Circuit Court Judge, claimed there was a necessity for African-American judges, “I saw a need in my community and a need to change the conversation about women, African-American women specifically, in Jefferson County.”
It was a surprise, as Alabama is a state that requires judges to run on party lines in order to be elected. So in a state that is surrounded by prejudice it is interesting to see such a wide sweep win by those women of color.
According to Brendette Brown Green, Circuit Court Judge, there was also a particular need for African-American women, “In this particular court, they’ve never had an African-American female on the bench.”
New York Magazine recently posted an article with a series of interviews with 8 of the women that elaborates on their thoughts of their newly appointed position and their roles.
Criminal Division District Judge Shanta Owens states, “Alabama would have to change a lot in order for me to really believe that I would be able to win a Supreme Court seat here. However, if we were elected on districts — maybe.”
This goes to show that even though this unprecedented event has generated the feeling that a change is coming, there is still much the state of Alabama needs to do in order for equality to be achieved.
Elisabeth French, Circuit Court Judge, didn’t think it was possible,
“There’s never been an African-American woman on either the Alabama Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court, so if President-elect Trump wants to invite me to do so, it would be a great honor. But I’m afraid that’s a bit far off in our nation’s history. Maybe I’ll be wrong; hopefully I’ll be wrong. But that’s where we are.”
The interview with these women expresses just how surprised they are with the wide sweep of votes that they received due to the large consensus of the state and its racist history. Optimism is varied as America is currently in an extremely divided situation.
Javan Patton spoke about progressivism and race relations in America and especially the south,
“Though we have a history of blatant racism and issues in the past, there’s a changing of the tide, and I want to be a part of the progression to make sure that we are inclusive and being better. I don’t think any of us set out to be history makers — I think we were all just interested in making our community better. People need to see African-American women doing this and they need to see us doing it in the South.”
It’s blatantly obvious that change needs to occur and with such volatile and unpredictable political rhetoric being thrown around, no one really knows where America is heading, but anything is possible.