Posted on March 24, 2022

The Racist, Sexist Mudslinging at Ketanji Brown Jackson Is Disgraceful

Peniel E. Joseph, CNN, March 23, 2022

In the first days of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s US Senate confirmation hearings as the nominee to become the first Black woman associate justice on the US Supreme Court, it’s becoming clearer how long a journey it’s been to get to this moment — and the road that still remains to be traveled.

Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s final opening remarks Monday revealed the scope of what Jackson’s up against. Blackburn’s inaccurate and blatantly racist attempts to patronize Jackson while twisting her sterling record into a scare narrative of GOP bogeymen — critical race theory, the 1619 Project and controversies over transgender athletes and women’s sports — were staggering yet unsurprising.


{snip} Texas Sen. Ted Cruz offered unintentional comic relief when he asked Jackson to opine about a book promoting anti-racism for infants and young children that he said “is being taught at Georgetown Day School to students in pre-K through second grade.” Cruz accused the Washington, DC, school, where Jackson is on the board of trustees, of supporting critical race theory and demanded that she respond.

“Do you agree with this book being taught to kids that babies are racist?” The nominee, after a pause long enough to indicate apparent contempt for the question, then replied critical race theory was taught in law schools and not in K-12 public schools. She also made the point that Georgetown Day School — like the school where Justice Amy Coney Barrett sat on the board before her confirmation — is a private school.

Cruz at one point held up the book in question as a kind of vulgar prop (while sitting in front of an enlarged reproduction of one of its pages) — essentially ending the GOP’s promise that Jackson’s confirmation hearings would not devolve into some kind of circus.

Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Missouri’s Josh Hawley, two of the most conservative and Trump-loving elected officials in the nation, attempted to attack Jackson as being soft on crime and unusually lenient in sentencing child sex offenders {snip}


The charge that Jackson sentenced child sex offenders to less time in certain cases than prosecutors recommended is particularly offensive, since it reflects a long-standing pattern in American history of attempting to pillory Black women as being incapable of living up to virtuous standards of womanhood. {snip}


Cotton attacked Jackson for reducing the sentence of a convicted drug dealer, a decision Jackson made in light of the First Step Act passed in 2018 by Republican President Donald J. Trump. “You chose to rewrite the law because you were sympathetic to a drug fentanyl kingpin,” claimed Cotton. “Respectfully, Senator. I disagree,” retorted Jackson.

While Republicans have focused on Jackson’s “judicial philosophy,” parroting support for an originalist or textualist approach to interpreting the Constitution, a document that in its original form would have denied Jackson her humanity, Democrats on the committee have also sought to place Jackson’s nomination in the long and tumultuous sweep of America’s racial history in more positive ways.

{snip} As her parents watched with pride, she answered a question from Sen. Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, regarding the historic nature of her nomination.

“I believe that the Constitution is fixed in its meaning,” Jackson asserted. {snip}

“Today we should rejoice,” observed Booker in his opening statement on the first day of hearings. He placed Jackson’s rise to the precipice of history within the moral arc of the nation’s political imagination on its long journey from slavery and Jim Crow racial segregation, to the election of a Black President, Vice President, and the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court. On day two, Booker followed Cotton and gave Jackson an opportunity to discuss the challenges of work-life balance as the mother of two daughters with an exceptionally busy career. Jackson appeared visibly moved discussing her own at times imperfect efforts to juggle “hearings during your daughters’ recitals” and “emergencies on birthdays that you have to handle.”


Black women have, historically, worked tirelessly to transform American democracy and the political institutions that have failed to recognize their humanity, brilliance and power. Since the end of slavery, the quest for citizenship and dignity has proved a particularly difficult one for Black women who — denied voting rights on both the basis of their race and their gender — occupied a political and social limbo. Mistreated by White institutions that saw them less as women than Black and, at times, disrespected in Black communities because they were women, they persisted in keeping Black families afloat and dreams of dignity alive.