Ketanji Brown Jackson’s road to the Supreme Court

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson performed admirably before the Senate Judiciary Committee, despite attacks on her historic nomination to the Supreme Court by Republican conspiracies, racism and sexism.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on the appointment of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be the first Black female justice to sit on the Supreme Court. The hearings were a circus of QAnon conspiracies and racist dog whistles, with little pushback on Republicans from Democrats. This week Executive Director Anna Lind-Guzik highlights recurring themes in the commentary on Jackson’s nomination: Republican abuses and complicity, Jackson’s unwavering composure and respectability politics, Democrats’ abandonment of their nominee, rampant misogynoir (misogyny specifically targeting Black women), and in spite of everything, pride at Jackson’s historic nomination, both as a Black woman and a former public defender.

Republican misbehavior, politicization and complicity

So far the only one Republican, Susan Collins, has said she will vote to confirm Judge Jackson. Longtime Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse writes for the New York Times: “every Republican who votes against her confirmation will be complicit in the abuse that the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee heaped on her.” She concludes, “the Republicans’ role in the Jackson hearing was not remotely about Ketanji Brown Jackson. It was about concocting a scary version of a Black woman to serve up to their base.”

Also in the New York Times, Emily Bazelon refutes Republican attacks on Judge Jackson for her sentencing decisions in child pornography cases, even citing the National Review for calling Senator Hawley’s line of questioning ​​“meritless to the point of demagoguery.”

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Democrats’ failure to support Judge Jackson

Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate about how Democrats stranded Ketanji Brown Jackson at her hearings. “Jackson looked alone fending off the QAnon smear brigade for much of these hearings because she was alone, at least until Sen. Cory Booker took it upon himself in his last colloquy to offer up a powerful corrective to the hatred being leveled at her.” 

Here is a video of Cory Booker telling Judge Jackson that no one will “steal his joy” at her nomination. When Black women were asked how they felt watching the hearings, many expressed a range from pride and hope, to pain and disgust. 

Racism, misogyny, and misogynoir

In Teen Vogue, Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman and Katie Camacho Orona argue that the attacks against Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson mirror those used against Justice Sonia Sotomayor. They compare the disingenuous critical race theory attacks on Judge Jackson to accusations of “reverse discrimination” made against Sotomayor. 

In Oprah Daily, legal scholars Madiba Dennie and Kate Kelly speak to the misogynoir Judge Jackson faced at the hearings. ​​”Misogynoir is a term coined by queer feminist scholar Professor Moya Bailey that encapsulates the specific hatred directed toward Black women, who face discrimination on the basis of both race and gender.” 

In Ms. Magazine, Bonnie Stabile writes about misogyny’s gatekeeping role at the hearings.

Composure and respectability in predominantly white spaces

Coming on the heels of Will Smith and Chris Rock’s dust-up at the Oscars, Roxane Gay wrote an essay “In defense of thin skin” where she describes her pain watching Judge Jackson’s hearing. She notes, “the Senate Judiciary Committee apparently valued decorum over Judge Jackson’s dignity.”

For The Nation, Elie Mystal delves into Judge Jackson’s pause after Ted Cruz rudely asked her, “Do you agree…that babies are racist?” He writes, “In that pregnant moment, everybody in the whole country who was watching got to see whiteness at work. Everybody knew that Ted Cruz got to stand up there and call Ketanji Brown Jackson whatever he wanted to, and nobody would stop him. Everybody knew that Jackson could not respond in kind if she wanted the job. And everybody knew that, in the same situation, Kavanaugh could and did sneer at his questioners, threaten the Senate with political retribution, and declare his undying love for beer, without hurting his chances at unaccountable lifetime power. Power he now holds.”

Celebrating Ketanji Brown Jackson’s accomplishments and experience

In the New York Times, Erica Green reports on how Ketanji Brown Jackson reacted to Confederate flag displays in her time at Harvard. 

For Teen Vogue, public defender Alexzandria Poole writes about her excitement at seeing a former public defender represented on the Supreme Court.

In Grid News, Chris Geidner writes that Jackson’s history of acknowledging people’s humanity is precisely what Republicans don’t like about her.

Finally, check out Madiba Dennie and Elizabeth Hira’s discussion of what Judge Jackson’s nomination means to women of color in the legal profession.

Anna Lind-Guzik is Executive Director and founder of The Conversationalist. She is a writer, attorney and scholar of Soviet history, authoritarianism, feminism and human rights. She hosts the weekly podcast "Unbreaking Media" which examines politics and culture through an intersectional feminist lens. Follow her on Twitter @alindguzik.