I’m sure most of us saw viral snippets of US District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings on social media. From Ted Cruz asking if baby’s were racist to Marsha Blackburn asking how to define the word “woman,” most of us can agree that this was a ridiculous line of questioning for anyone—let alone someone as qualified as Ketanji Brown Jackson—to sit through.
As strange as it seems, some of us felt an all too familiar feeling when watching the hearings. You may ask, what could an average person even have in common with Judge Jackson, and what the committee made her endure? Well there are many shared experiences that stem from systematic oppression. How Judge Jackson handled these aggressive questions thrown at her is something all too familiar for many Black, Indigenous and Women of Color (BIWOC) seeking higher societal positions.
We saw our experiences in how she adeptly deflected irrelevant questions asked by predominantly old, white men and eloquently answered ones that did matter. But most importantly, we saw our experiences in the long pause she took, followed by an extremely heavy sigh when Senator Ted Cruz asked her, “Do you agree that babies… are racist?” In that moment, I could see the internal calculation behind her eyes as she pondered whether to speak strategically or give Cruz a piece of her mind for such a bizarre, disrespectful question.
After a long pause, Jackson understandably decided against speaking out and instead answered with, “I do not believe that any child should be made to feel as though they are racist….” Although I cannot speak on Jackson’s behalf, it is highly probable that years of experience in predominantly white settings as a Black woman have given her the skills to deal with these situations appropriately. Unfortunately, BIWOC are discouraged from speaking up or showing any type of emotional outburst for fear of being labeled as “emotionally unstable,” being taken less seriously or even having their words used against them. Our male counterparts can afford to make a scene and have it labeled as “standing up for himself.” If Jackson decided to let Cruz know how she really felt about his questioning, you could expect out-of-context video cuts on Fox News at 8 p.m. with Tucker Carlson.
Perhaps the fact that Republicans had to resort to such a comical line of questioning is an attestation to Judge Jackson’s clean record and impressive qualifications. With nothing to question about her character or intelligence, GOP senators instead demeaned her with irrelevant questions that simply do not pertain to her role as a judge. This is something high-achieving women underrepresented in their fields commonly face. They are constantly questioned, looked down upon and snubbed simply because of their gender or race. It’s unfair for women of color to have to dance around the egos of fragile white men in order to make it to the top.
Ultimately, Judge Jackson’s hearing speaks to a long history of racism and sexism that many women of color have endured to get ahead in their fields. Despite all the obstacles, such as being confined in a room with multiple ridiculous white senators, Jackson has proved that it is possible to overcome them. After a Senate deadlock on her nomination, more Republicans began to back her, advancing her nomination and allowing her to be confirmed as Supreme Court justice.
Judge Jackson would be the first Black woman to grace the seats of the Supreme Court—a historical event. Her nomination and confirmation demonstrate the resilience and qualifications that her and many other women of color possess. Judge Jackson has shown all of us that it is possible to achieve our goals, no matter what others may have to say.