Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Sept. 18 at the age of 87. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
mgreen@afro.com

After 27 years of service as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 87 years of life, and five bouts of cancer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Sept. 18. Despite her illness, chemotherapy and the demand of her job, the Justice, affectionately known as “Notorious R.B.G.” served until the very end.

“My most recent scan on July 7 indicated significant reduction of the liver lesions and no new disease. I am tolerating chemotherapy well and am encouraged by the success of my current treatment.  I will continue bi-weekly chemotherapy to keep my cancer at bay, and am able to maintain an active daily routine. Throughout, I have kept up with opinion writing and all other Court work,” Ginsburg wrote in a statement on July 17.  

“I have often said I would remain a member of the Court as long as I can do the job full steam. I remain fully able to do that,” the Justice added, closing her mid-July statement. 

Even on her deathbed, the Notorious R.B.G. had hope. 

”My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” Ginsburg said in a statement through her granddaughter just a few days before her passing.

Before she went to Cornell, married Martin Ginsburg, went to Harvard Law School or transferred to Columbia Law School, Joan Ruth Bader, was the Brooklyn born daughter of a Jewish, Ukranian (then in the Russian Empire) emigrant father and American mother of Austrian Jewish descent. Her parents, Nathan and Celia Bader, had an older daughter who died as a child, when Joan was still a baby.  She began going by “Ruth,” once her mother noticed there were other girls named Joan in her daughter’s class.

Ginsburg’s career was filled with fights.  She had to fight her way to the top as a woman in a male dominated field, she fought her way into a job after being denied a clerkship due to gender, and advocated for equal pay after she was paid less than her male counterparts, when teaching at Rutgers.

Her discriminatory experiences, as well as time abroad researching in Sweden, led Ginsburg towards a passionate fight towards gender equality.

In 1972, she co-founded the Women’s Rights Project of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and served as general counsel for the group the following year.

President Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1980, where she served until her 1993 advancement to the Supreme Court.

It was in the Supreme Court where Ginsburg was dubbed the title the Notorious R.B.G., a play on the highly-lauded fallen Brooklyn rapper, Notorious B.I.G.

“In her principles, she’s much more radical than I think a lot of people realize. She’s fought for ideals that even today may seem pretty radical, and at the time were simply unheard of: the idea that marriage could be an egalitarian institution, the idea that gender norms really don’t mean anything and are not helpful to anyone. One of the quotes we have in the book is that if she didn’t have this sort of conventional, traditional life with a husband and children, she would be seen as a flaming radical because of what she was working for,” Shana Knizhnik, co-author of Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, told Rolling Stone in 2015.

For those invested in her often liberal and left-leaning ideals, Ginsburg’s death comes as a hard pill to swallow, especially because that means President Donald Trump will be responsible for replacing her seat on the Court.

“No!!!! 2020 just can’t give us a break! My soul is sinking,” one Facebook user wrote when this reporter wrote the news of Ginsburg’s death on social media.

However, others are holding on to the optimism Ginsburg displayed in her service.

“I know the popular analysis is going to be “we’re screwed,” and I *feel you.* But nah. RBG didn’t go out like that and neither are we,” activist and NBC News and MSNBC contributor Brittany Packnett Cunningham wrote on Twitter.  “I’m not speaking that, and I’m not believing that. We gon fight. That’s what we’re gonna do,” the two-time Fellow at Harvard Institute of Politics added.

Even those who disagreed with Ginsburg through much of her career, such as former New York Mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giulliani, paid tribute to the leader. 

“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a credit to the Court. I disagreed with many of her decisions but they were all well reasoned and well argued. She was a close friend of her ideological opposite, Justice Scalia.They both loved opera, law and the U.S.A. May She Rest In Peace,” Giulliani wrote on Twitter.

Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor