NC Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls: Black Woman VP Would Send ‘Incredibly Powerful Message’

FILE - In this July 17, 2019, file photo, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks during a Senate Democrats' Special Committee on the Climate Crisis on Capitol Hill in Washington. Neither public rivals nor personal friends, Bottoms and Stacey Abrams spent years climbing parallel ladders from nearby outposts at Atlanta City Hall and the Georgia Capitol.  Now the Atlanta mayor and the former Georgia governor candidate find themselves at the same political intersection on Joe Biden's list of potential running mates. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

By Max Millington

August 8, 2020

Earls, a career civil rights attorney, says Biden’s decision is evidence American voters are embracing Black women leaders.

This is Part 3 of a Cardinal & Pine series, in which influential Black women leaders in NC talk about the possibility of a Black woman vice president. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Of the leading candidates to be presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s running mate, more than half are women of color, according to several outlets. 

The pool includes notable lawmakers like California Sen. Kamala Harris and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, as well as New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Florida Rep. Val Demings, California Rep. Karen Bass, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth and former national security advisor Susan Rice.

Cardinal & Pine wanted to know what that meant to some of NC’s most influential women of color, so we asked. 

Previously, we shared our interviews with state Sen. Natalie Murdock and Jessica Holmes, a Wake County commissioner running for state labor commissioner.

Now, we’re sharing our conversation with NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls.

NC Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls

In 2018, Earls was elected to the state’s high court following an active career in civil rights law.

Earls was the founder and executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. She also served as the director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Voting Rights Project and as a deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights under President Bill Clinton. She received her J.D. from Yale Law School.

C&P: In 2018 we saw an influx of women of color being elected to various positions throughout the country. You were obviously a part of this group. How have you been inspired by the increased elections of women of color in recent years? 

Anita: I would certainly say that my campaign in 2018 was helped tremendously by the fact that there are so many more Black women running for office and that I benefited tremendously from the mentorship of some of our pioneer women who’ve been elected. 

They had the unique expertise of understanding the challenges that I was facing as a candidate, but also were very skillful in how to conduct a successful campaign. So I really benefited in countless ways, from both the fact that there are now more women seeking office, but also that there are some amazing role models for us to follow.

C&P: Speaking of those role models, what would it mean to them and to you symbolically if Biden selects a Black woman as his running mate?

Anita: If Vice President Biden chooses a Black woman to be his running mate, it will send an incredibly powerful message about the capacity of Black women to be effective candidates and to be voices that the electorate wants to hear from.

I think the demonstrations across this country this summer illustrate the power of Black women’s leadership because we know there are numerous prominent Black women in the Black Lives Matter movement. I believe that when history is written about these demonstrations, it will definitely demonstrate that they were not merely spontaneous action, but that it was the result of long term, strategic, thoughtful and powerful organizing that’s been going on across the country and a lot of it was led by Black women

I think it illustrates the need for our country to have that kind of leadership. 

C&P: You’ve been a champion of social justice in your career. How do you hope Biden’s running mate selection affects social justice legislation in NC and throughout the country?

Anita: I think that the vice presidency is a tremendous leadership opportunity, and that we should never underestimate, whether it’s behind the scenes or quite openly as an inspirational leader. The role of vice president can be pivotal in a lot of different ways. So I think we should not underestimate the power that position brings with it.


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