I remember it well! It hasn’t been that long ago and I’m sure that it’s still practiced in culturally anachronistic pockets of this nation – like the US Senate. I speak of that circumstance in which the best a Black woman can expect from (some) white folks is to be called by her first name, and if she’s older, Auntie! She can never dream of the expectation of conversational courtesies in tone or expression.
In modern America, the same type of blatant and benign contempt of never speaking in tones of equanimity or affording an individual the respect of using a Mrs. or Ms. (or Mr.) and a last name has been reflected in the tone and tenor of (certain) Republican Senators during the confirmation hearings of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. In the past few days, an exceptionally qualified jurist who has received Senate confirmation on three separate occasions has been subjected to interrogation no better than if she were herself a criminal. I am sure that without the razor-thin majority of Senate Democrats, the Supreme Court would have to wait for the election of the next Republican president to reach its full complement.
It is clear that (Senate) Republicans deeply embrace an anti-abortion philosophy, unfettered access to commercially available firearms, the influx of ‘dark’ money in the political process, and a disregard for the management of climate issues. Their goal of ending protections for same-sex couples and families, and irrefutable acceptance and endorsement of white supremist values as an integral part of Republicanism (Trumpism) are common to the interests they support. In recent days, a Republican Senator from Indiana has even opined that the Supreme Court erred in guaranteeing the legality of interracial marriage. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson would be a strong voice against this reactionary agenda.
The confirmation hearings were not easy for me to watch. The longer I viewed them, the more disgusted I became. My disgust was directed at the ridiculous, mindless inquiries of Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and their failed and repeated attempts to entrap Judge Jackson in an ill-considered response.
My disgust was only tempered in the juxtaposition of Judge Jackson’s record against those of her inquisitors. Her multifaceted experience in the justice system will serve to enhance her position on the high court. At all levels, she has been credited by and for exemplary performance. Moreover, her lived experiences provide a myriad of perspectives that are not currently available to current Justices. Additionally, she has received endorsements which span divergent political viewpoints far too numerous to list in this space.
We must remember Josh Hawley in the context of January 6, 2020, and as the fist-pumping US Senator who participated in inciting the traitorous, insurrectionist mob to storm the US Capital. There is significant contrast between a judge whose life’s work has been upholding the law and a rookie Senator who has played an integral part of an insurrection against our Constitution.
Senators Blackburn, Cruz, Kennedy, Cornyn and Cotton feebly attempted to entrap Judge Jackson in a discussion of nebulous, irrelevant topics which all appeared to serve as soundbites for future campaign ads tinged with a huge dose of racism.
And then came Lindsey Graham! Not only could his behavior be characterized as arrogant and self-righteous, but his conduct violated the committee’s confirmation rules and his public use of profanity was inconsistent with the decorum of the body and the office.
Most impressive was Judge Jackson’s grace and controlled demeanor. She has rightfully secured her claim to a seat on the Supreme Court.
Dr. E. Faye Williams is National President of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. She is host of “Wake Up and Stay Woke” on WPFW FM 89.3 and author of a new book in remembrance of Dick Gregory entitled DICK GREGORY: WAKE UP AND STAY WOKE.