Race drifted over Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 22, 2022 on the third day of her confirmation hearings.

 

As Ketanji Brown Jackson sat this week through several days of hearings in her bid to join the Supreme Court, Democrats proudly took turns reflecting on the great example that she sets and the need for the judiciary — much like other institutions — to reflect the diverse public it serves in a better way.

At the same time, some Republicans repeatedly suggested that the first Black female high court nominee was soft on crime and questioned whether critical race theory — an academic framework centered on the idea that racism is systemic — influenced her thinking as a judge.

The contrasting treatment underscored the extent to which race drifted over the four grueling days of Jackson’s confirmation hearings this week, serving as both a source of joy for the judge’s supporters and a path for contentious questions that sometimes carried racial undertones.

“This confirmation hearing has been a reminder — and in some ways, a new Exhibit A — that for people of color, particularly those who have the audacity to try to be the first, [they] often have to work twice as hard to get half the respect,” said Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), the first Latino to represent California in the U.S. Senate.

Addressing Jackson directly, Padilla continued: “I offer that with your talent and exemplary qualifications on full display.”