" Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your
power -- not because they don't see it, but because they see it and they don't
want it to exist." -- bell hooks
We recently watched as one of the most qualified individuals in our nation’s history – Ketanji Brown Jackson – went through her confirmation hearing to become a Justice on the United States Supreme Court. That photo of her youngest daughter lovingly glancing at her mom during the confirmation hearing is priceless!
We want to observe this historical moment as the Senate considers the nomination of this country’s first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Judge Jackson’s qualifications to serve on our nation’s highest court is impeccable. Many commentators have stated, and we agree, that she is arguably the MOST qualified nominee ever: having been educated at an Ivy league college and law school, clerked for judges in the U.S. District Court, U.S. Court of Appeals and for Justice Breyer in the U.S. Supreme Court, served as a public defender, and was Vice Chairman of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. She served as a Judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for eight years before being elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2021.
But with all her professional accomplishments, she relishes being a mom. She told her daughters in her opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee: "Girls, I know it has not been easy as I have tried to navigate the challenges of juggling my career and motherhood. And I fully admit that I did not always get the balance right. But I hope that you have seen that hard work, determination, and love, it can be done. I am so looking forward to seeing what each of you chooses to do with your amazing lives in this incredible country. I love you so much."
She also poignantly stated before the Committee, "You don't have to be a perfect mom, but if you do your best and you love your children that things will turn out Ok."
These words struck us, and most mothers, to our core. And Judge Jackson’s strength came in full sight as her confirmation hearing proceeded, and in some instances became quite ugly. As the nation watched, Judge Jackson was subjected to some of the most disrespectful and inappropriate questions intended to stir the political pot rather than assess her judicial competence. Those questions included:
· Asking “on a scale of 1 to 10” how “faithful” she is “in terms of religion”;
· Asking whether she “attend[s] church regularly”;
· Declaring that she was soft on, and has sympathy for, child pornographers;
· Demanding that she explain critical race theory;
· Brandishing two books by noted black author Dr. Ibram X. Kendi that are available at the lower school library of her daughters’ school to teach about prejudice and racism (and which have no impact on Judge Jackson’s judicial competence) as a way to politically disparage her among conservatives.
· Asking whether she thought babies were racist;
· Asking her to define what is a “woman”; and
· Asking her view on whether transgender women should compete in sports.
To further underscore how reprehensibly she was treated, Committee members repeatedly interrupted Judge Jackson’s responses or yelled their arguments against her credentials. One Senator even wagged his finger at her and then stormed out of her hearing. Another Senator called her a liar during their questioning. But throughout this proceeding, Judge Jackson remained calm, thoughtful and polite. Further, in what appeared to instigate a personal threat on her family, at least one Committee member repeatedly stated the name of her daughter’s private school in this very public and politically heightened forum.
The emotional intensity of the hearing was not lost on Senator Cory Booker who provided an impassioned speech to Judge Jackson, the Committee, and indeed to the nation. Senator Booker told Judge Jackson: “It’s hard for me not to look at you and not see my mom, not to see my cousins -- one of them who had to come here and sit behind you," Booker said. "She had to have your back. I see my ancestors and yours.” “Nobody’s going to steal that joy," he said. "Nobody's taking this away from me."
And nobody’s going to take that from us either. Despite the full-on explicit racism and outrageous questioning that Judge Jackson faced, her tenacity, professionalism, and perseverance, coupled with the love and support of her daughters, husband, family and friends held her up through that ordeal. Indeed, Judge Jackson gave us a Master Class on professionalism, dignity, and grace. In the face of insults and attempted marginalization, Judge Jackson was the embodiment of the gold standard of behavior for all of us. As former First Lady Michelle Obama stated, “When they go low, we go high.” That mantra was certainly on display with Judge Jackson, and as 2 Black Moms, our hope is that Mrs. Obama’s mantra and Judge Jackson’s gold standard of behavior can transcend for all of us Black moms and Black dads.
Like it or not, our behaviors as Black parents (Black moms and Black dads) set the standard for our Black children. To keep our Black children safe, we must demonstrate for them that calm behavior and words can serve as a significant and impactful denouncement to indignities as Judge Jackson so well demonstrated to all of America last week.