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This week, the Honorable Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Supreme Court nominee, appeared before the U.S. Senate for her confirmation hearings. Judge Jackson is exceptionally qualified: magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, editor of the Harvard Law Review, experience as both a corporate attorney and a public defender, and nine years as a federal judge for the District of Columbia.
This particular round of confirmation hearings is historic; Judge Jackson is the first Black woman nominated to the U. S. Supreme Court. When considered in context with both the ongoing political atmosphere of polarization related to issues of race and the experiences of countless other overqualified, highly educated and effective Black professional women, the content of these hearings has been unsurprising and tedious.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, began his inquiries with conjecture about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and escalated to a fearmongering expedition into Critical Race Theory. His portion of the confirmation questioning was presented with oak tag visual aids and an attempt to draw a line connecting the Supreme Court nominee and another Black woman, Waterloo-born Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones. Following this failed attempt to assign Judge Jackson a role in forcing children to learn about CRT, he launched into a line of questioning designed to paint her as soft on crime — specifically, sex crimes against children. This, the nominee also thwarted by reminding the senator that federal policy dictates the factors a judge must consider when rendering a decision.
Sen. Lindsey Graham demanded to know Judge Jackson’s faith, advocated for eliminating due process for those accused of terrorism, (no word if that sentiment applies to those responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection), and stormed out of the room.
Stereotypes and biases against Black women in the workplace persist in this country. Black women are less likely to be promoted or to receive the support needed to advance in the professional world than men, white women, Latinas, or Asian American women. Tropes depicting Black women as aggressive, combative, and unqualified contribute to perceptions among leadership that perpetuate their exclusion from executive roles — and those who do surpass this barrier are often tokenized, frequently finding themselves the only one in the room.
Let it not be lost on us that a member of the same body questioning Judge Jackson went on record Tuesday to suggest that Loving vs. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage, should be overturned in favor of individual states revisiting the issue.
The effort to depict the nominee as a danger to children and a supporter of terrorists (and perhaps a member of an undesirable faith?) to the conservative base feels like far more than an effort to simply besmirch the character of one judge. These elected officials are building steam for both the midterms and for 2024. That they are leveraging the labor and achievements of the first Black woman nominated to SCOTUS as an opportunity to denigrate her and as a launchpad for their own aspirations is right on brand.
Sofia DeMartino is a Gazette editorial fellow. Comments: email@example.com