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“Are Babies Racist?” and Other Questions You Shouldn’t Ask an Overqualified Black Woman

This week, Supreme Court Justice nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black female nominee to the position, sat through hostile confirmation hearing proceedings where she was questioned by Senate Republicans.

Judge Jackson is the first Black female nominee to the highest court in the U.S., a historic moment that has been long in the making. Her confirmation would make the court total four women and two Black justices. She’s an inspiration to many and an incredibly qualified candidate. In her opening remarks, she made it clear that this wasn’t lost on her.

“I stand on the shoulders of generations past, who never had anything close to this opportunity, who were the first — and the only — in a lot of different fields,” said Jackson.

I won’t lie and say this didn’t make me tear up a little bit. I know we’re not supposed to idolize politicians, but every time a Black woman is successful, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of pride. 

However, the Senate Republicans that questioned her didn’t seem to grasp this importance, instead using their platform to waste time asking questions that had nothing to do with her position. 

Cut to Texas Senator Ted Cruz holding up former American University professor Ibram Kendi’s children’s book,“Antiracist Baby,” when questioning her about “critical race theory” taught at Georgetown Day School, where Jackson is on the board of trustees. 

“There are portions of this book that I find really quite remarkable,” said Cruz. “One portion of the book says babies are taught to be racist or anti-racist. There is no neutrality. Do you agree with this book that is being taught with kids that babies are racist?”

There it was — the sigh, the long pensive pause that every Black woman has been forced to utilize at some point in their life. It’s a brilliant show of self-composure and, if this wasn’t such a serious event, would have gotten a laugh from the peanut gallery behind her.

The nine-second pause that it took for Judge Jackson to respond was full of the same frustration that Black women feel when someone asks us a stupid question wrapped in a microaggression that hits a little too close to home. It was embarrassing on Cruz’s part to ask her something not of substance or in her wheelhouse of expertise. Even further, just because it’s a dumb question.

Yet in the face of adversity, Judge Jackson answered sternly that the content of the curriculum for a school she is on the board of has nothing to do with her work in the judicial system. She fielded similarly thoughtless questions throughout the rest of the confirmation hearing proceedings with poise and grace. 

The Republicans need a reason to vote against her and are trying everything in their power to find one. They questioned her about her work in child sexual abuse cases, terrorism, and critical race theory in an attempt to throw her off and catch her slip-up. Judge Jackson is incredibly qualified for this position: she’s a Harvard Law graduate, a federal judge who sits on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a former trial judge on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, and the former Vice Chair and Commissioner on the United States Sentencing Commission. The questions they asked her seemed like they were meant for someone with less titles under their belt.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on Jackson's confirmation on April 4 and then the full Senate will hold a vote. There’s nothing that can stop her. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t get any Republican support because if the 50 Senate Democrats stick together, aided by the tie breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, she’ll get that seat. If and (I’m crossing my fingers here) when Judge Jackson gets appointed to the Supreme Court, it will be a historic moment for Black women everywhere. She’ll serve as a role model to many, but specifically for young Black girls who never envisioned this as a possibility.

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