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PARK: Ketanji Brown Jackson nomination hearings point to Republican inconsistencies

Column: The Queue

Supreme Court nomination hearings showcase problematic aspects, underlined by the questions asked by Republican senators. – Photo by Arsenio Hall /

In the last four years, we have experienced three Supreme Court justice confirmation hearings — Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Ketanji Brown Jackson. And to no one's surprise, each came with their own absurdities and challenges.

While Kavanaugh faced sexual misconduct allegations in mid of his nomination and Barrett proudly announced her pro-life stance as she replaced the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jackson deals with something different: a combination of racism and sexism.

Judge Jackson was verbally questioned and essentially attacked by senators. There was a series of questions, including her choice to sentence specific court cases regarding child abuse and other topics.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Miss.) took his question time to shed misconstrued light on her sentencing record with cases involving child pornography, making her seem empathetic toward child predators.

It was embarrassing to see the senators that make up our country’s legislative branch take stabs at Jackson. What the message these senators were attempting to portray by asking such questions can be explained by only prejudice and racist actions. 

It was telling to see the clip of the confirmation hearing that went viral for Jackson versus the clip that went viral for Barrett. For Jackson, it was when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) questioned Jackson on transgender participants in athletics, and she was asked to define a woman. For Barrett, she struggled to list all five freedoms of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The tension between Jackson and Cruz was so blatantly apparent throughout the hearing. When Jackson was asked if she believed babies are racist, for example, by Cruz, she took a long pause. In the seconds that felt like minutes and hours to every person of color, we listened in anticipation of what Jackson would say. She ultimately said that she did not believe that kids should be made to feel as though they are racist or any less than. 

I found it not only surprising but also unprofessional that the topic of race has risen to the surface of Jackson’s hearing. Republicans were livid that President Joseph R. Biden Jr. nominated a Black woman to replace Justice Stephen Breyer when he retires. But as a divided country, this polarization was inevitable, and I believe that is the issue.

Jackson, in the eyes of the Republican senators, is soft on crime. They attack and judge her decisions on court case hearings which go way beyond insinuation, but allude to being the enemy in terms of political thought.

When Cruz questioned Barrett during her hearing, he discussed distance learning and her children’s piano lessons.

I understand establishing rapport, but seeing the difference between how he decided to use his questioning time between the two nominees — a Conservative white woman and a Liberal Black woman — shows me and people everywhere the unfairness Jackson has had to face during her hearing and will probably continue to face when she is appointed into the Supreme Court. 

That is not to say that at the time, Barrett did not also face opposition. She had her fair share of grilling by Democratic senators who had come to her hearing as she was the political antithesis of Ginsburg, the justice she was replacing.

But they also showed her mercy and praise. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), for example, apologized to Barrett and her family in his closing remarks at her nomination hearing. Where is this level of respect from Republican senators and leaders for Jackson? 

Jackson, at least from what I made of it, bit her tongue in order to save her image and keep things professional. She is more than qualified to be on the Supreme Court. Not everyone may want her on the Supreme Court, and that is okay. But qualifications and disagreements on personal opinions must be made separate and must be exemplified by our nation’s leaders.

There is no scandal or sexual assault allegations that Jackson is facing, but rather, she is being targeted because Republican senators, it seems to me, do not want a Black woman on the Supreme Court. 

Some Republican senators during this hearing have shown blatant racism. Not all of them, but it is telling of who we have chosen to represent our country and how they treat a nominee for the Supreme Court.

Jackson stood there with grace and took it all, and I could not imagine being in her shoes. A Supreme Court confirmation hearing is difficult enough, but to be asked questions not regarding intelligence, the law or anything related to the job but rather being targeted due to race is unacceptable and embarrassing to the senators who took part in questioning her.

Annabel Park is a Rutgers Business School first-year majoring in marketing and minoring in journalism. Her column, "The Queue," runs on alternate Fridays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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