SAY WHAT? - Woefully predictably, the GOP turned Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court into a noxious maelstrom of frat boy "whiteness at work," with relentless, hectoring assaults by a "marauding band of racist, sexist visigoths" who managed to transform a more-than-eminently qualified black female judge into a child-porn-loving, critical-race-spewing danger to the Republic. Sadly, the most striking feature of almost four days of hearings was not the historical moment - a nation poised to add, finally, the first black woman to its highest court - but the bullying, badgering, appalling spectacle of the motley collection of ignorant old white guys (and one young one) subjecting a black woman to the kind of contemptuous "jackassery" that no white counterpart, even a sniveling, lying, bellicose, sexual-assaulting bro, would ever suffer, like, say, being asked the definition of a woman or if babies are racist - WTF - all while she dutifully kept smiling, mostly.
With undergrad and law degrees from Harvard, a prestigious SCOTUS clerkship with Justice Breyer, years of work as a public defender plus nine years as a federal judge, Jackson, 51, has more judicial experience than many former Supreme Court Justices, and more than four current Justices (Thomas, Roberts, Kagan, Barrett) combined; she also has an extraordinarily low 2% reversal rate on her rulings. Those impeccable credentials didn't stop a GOP "rapid response team" from responding to her nomination with hysterical ads - KBJ = CRT! - and a long list of moronic questions that "Americans need answers to," like "When was Derrick Bell's book on her family's coffee table?", "Would she force pro-life Americans to fund abortion providers with their tax dollars?" and "Can Americans pray at football games?", thus nicely setting the histrionic tone for GOP Senators' subsequent half-witted, soul-crushing, bad-faith questions aimed solely at undermining her as less than, any way they could.
John Cornyn whined marriage equality could conflict with hateful wingnut "religious beliefs" - "Well, Senator, that is the nature of a right" - and wondered if she celebrated Clarence Thomas' ascendance to SCOTUS because, you know, they're both black. Lindsey Graham asked, "On a scale of one to 10, how faithful would you say you are in terms of religion?" before twice flouncing out in a hissy fit evidently left over from Dems daring to question the sordid past of his drunk rapist bro Brett 'I Like Beer' Kanavaugh during hearings when "most of us couldn't go back to our offices without getting spit on." Marcia Blackburn asked if Jackson could define a woman before ranting about some trans girl swimmer oppressing "real" girl swimmers, and Tom Cotton won the Most Idiotic Question Award - in a very competitive race - with, "Do you think we should catch and imprison more murderers or fewer murderers?" Browbeating her for un-snappy answers to more inane questions - "These are not difficult questions" - Jackson calmly shot back, "It's not that these are difficult questions. It's that they're not questions for me."
Then there was Josh 'We Love Insurrections' Hawley, the one young clueless white guy, who sleazily nurtured the all-Dems-are-pedophiles lunacy of his QAnon besties by charging Jackson “has a pattern of letting child porn offenders off the hook” - in five such cases out of 700 she ruled in - a claim dismissed as "demagoguery" by even the right-wing National Review. Finally, famed black history scholar and Zodiac Killer Ted Cruz tried to Republican-splain racism to Jackson, sneering he wouldn't ask about her "teenage dating habits" - poor victimized Brett again - but does she support the "deeply inaccurate" findings of the 1619 Project and CRT ideas MLK would reject and a claim in Ibram X. Kendi's now-best-selling book "Anti-racist Baby" - cue ludicrous cartoon props - that babies are racist? "Senator," Jackson began carefully. A sigh. A full, fraught, seven-second pause as she thought back to all the years of all the work and all the white mansplaining jerks she couldn't tell off and what would it cost to do it now? "I have not reviewed any of those books," she said evenly. "They don't come up in my work as a judge, which I'm respectfully here to address."
Cruz went on to lose it after feverishly circling back to the non-existent child porn issue - “Apparently you are very afraid of the American people hearing the answer to that question," he babbled - but it was Jackson's pause that lingered, that pregnant moment of "whiteness at work," of white male mediocrity and subpar intellect lording it over someone vastly superior who had to weigh the painful knowledge she couldn't scowl or rant or whine like Beer Boy. "Everybody (watching) knew that Ted Cruz got to stand up there and call Ketanji Brown Jackson whatever he wanted to, and nobody would stop him," writes Elie Mystal. "Everybody knew that Jackson could not respond in kind if she wanted the job. That pause, that moment, that clear difference in the range of human possibilities afforded to Jackson and Kavanaugh - that's racism...That's sexism." Online, many agreed. They fumed about "these withered racist sexist shitbags past their expiration date," urged "y'all (make) room for successful Black women," and celebrated Jackson's "grace, composure and restraint under abusive questioning by Republican thugs...She is magnificent."
Many also charged Democrats "just let the Republicans beat up on Jackson," while doing little to cite the dangers now posed by GOP-backed extremists. The most notable exception was New Jersey's Corey Booker, still one of only a handful of African-Americans to serve in the Senate. Warmly supportive and often visibly emotional through the hearing, Booker pushed back against the GOP's abuses as Jackson, by virtue of her vulnerable position, could not. "You've faced insults here that were shocking to me," Booker told Jackson, adding, "Well, actually, not shocking." In a final, heartfelt soliloquy that brought Jackson to tears, Booker lauded her as a long-sought "harbinger of hope" in a country where change comes too slow. He spoke of Jackson's parents, who lived in a segregated Florida and "didn't stop loving this country even though this country didn't love them back." He cited all the others in America, from Chinese railroad workers to LGBTQ activists, who vowed they would "make this nation live up to its promise and hope." He insisted, "I'm not letting anybody in the Senate steal my joy," told Jackson, "Don't worry, my sister. Don't worry. God has got you," and let Langston Hughes say it best.
"O, let America be America again -
The land that never has been yet -
And yet must be - the land where every many is free."
(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected])