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Outrage. And Hope
The Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmation hearings
Watching the confirmation hearings today for Ketanji Brown Jackson was a whipsaw of mixed emotions that cut to the very heart of the inconsistencies and chasms that have defined this nation since its founding.
I felt indignant. And inspired.
Embarrassed. And proud.
Outraged. And hopeful.
Through the lens of Judge Jackson, a Black woman who needs no qualifiers for her intelligence or qualifications, we can see an America that is aspirational. Here is the true definition of a patriot, a citizen who loves her nation even though it has not always loved her back, who believes in its better angels even when she has to face its ugliest impulses, who wants to fight for a more fair and inclusive polity from within the system and through the law. She sees the Constitution as a document of hope, even though that very document codified the enslavement of Black bodies.
Then there were the Republicans on the dais. In their sanctimony, their disrespect, their posturing, their distortions, we can hear the echoes of the injustices of power that are also rooted in the same Constitution that gives Judge Jackson hope.
Is there a better distillation of our nation’s inconsistencies than the spectacle we witnessed in these hearings?
I will not delve into the specifics of the questioning. There will be plenty of other places where you can get the lowlights of the diatribes and the highlights of Judge Jackson’s careful answers. All of these scurrilous and disingenuous lines of argument are really about one thing: tearing down the nominee.
The Republicans scoff at the accusations of racist overtones, and in so doing prove the point of this framing. I have seen these circumstances far too many times for them to be coincidental — the disrespect, the double standards, the innuendo, the winks and nods at a game for which everyone, and certainly Judge Jackson, knows the rules.
I saw it with Jackie Robinson. And Dr. King. And Thurgood Marshall. And Barack Obama. And these were all men. Being a Black woman carries a whole other set of burdens. There was a quality to the tenor of their voices that anyone who has seen America's race and gender dynamics play out knows all too well.
Judge Jackson certainly does. And she knows she cannot act with the practiced histrionics of Brett Kavanaugh or the opaqueness of Amy Coney Barrett. The yardstick for measuring Judge Jackson has never been trotted out before in American history in this way.
They questioned her intelligence with their ignorance.
They challenged her temperament with their churlishness.
They impugned her character with their lies and bombast.
I know the many systemic challenges this nation faces, but in the end I cannot help but be left with hope. I have seen where this country once was. It looked and sounded a lot like those launching the diatribes. And I see where this country is going. There was a time not long ago when the nomination of a Black woman to the Supreme Court would have been unthinkable.
I am not saying we cannot regress. We can. I am not saying that progress is assured. It is certainly not. But despite all the detours and delaying of justice that have marked our history, despite all the significant hurdles that remain, there is a reason why Judge Jackson can speak with such eloquence about a nation of law based on a Constitution forged in a furnace of inequity. It is because in these founding documents were seeds that if tended well could bear the fruit of progress. Her powerful rebuttal to the outrage on Capitol Hill lay in her unshakeable belief in America.