Written by Meg Walters
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is one step closer to claiming her spot on the Supreme Court after four gruelling days of questioning – but, in the words of senator Alex Padilla, the hearings have revealed that “people of colour, particularly those that have the audacity to try to be the first, often have to work twice as hard to get half the respect.”
After four days of confirmation hearings, Ketanji Brown Jackson is one step closer on her journey to become the first Black woman to serve as a Supreme Court judge in the US.
As is customary, Jackson was questioned by members of the Senate judiciary committee. Senator Dick Durbin, who presided over the hearings, announced the final vote will take place on 4 April.
After her hearings, Jackson has garnered huge popularity, with only 26% of Americans opposed to her confirmation. This would make her the most popular nominee since 2005.
But despite Jackson’s extensive resume, massive popularity and decades of experience, the questioning of some Republican senators has been widely denounced.
“There is an absurdity to this that is almost comical if it was not so dangerous,” Senator Cory Booker said at one point of the line of questioning, while writer Tayo Bero described the hearings as “a scene of childish political theatre, thanks to Senate Republicans,” in a piece for The Guardian.
In the face of problematic questions from Republican senators, Jackson has been praised for her dignified, measured demeanour throughout the proceedings and will likely be confirmed after the vote next week.
Who is Ketanji Brown Jackson?
On 25 February, President Biden announced that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was his nominee for the Supreme Court. As the first Black woman to be nominated for the position, this was a momentous occasion.
The hearings have demonstrated that Jackson is well-deserving of the nomination and well-qualified to hold the post. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1996, Jackson has had an illustrious career.
She served as a law clerk and practiced law for 10 years. In 2009, she was nominated by Barack Obama to become vice chair of the United States Sentencing Commission. In 2012, she was nominated to serve as a judge in the District of Columbia. In 2021, President Joe Biden nominated her to become a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.
Ketanji Brown Jackson is making history as the first Black woman to be nominated for the Supreme Court
In her opening statement, Jackson spoke about how her family’s support has helped her break down barriers throughout her career.
Jackson’s parents, Johnny and Ellery Brown, and her younger brother Ketajh Brown were present.
Her parents were raised in the south before working as public school teachers in Washington DC.
“My parents taught me that, unlike the many barriers that they had to face growing up, my path was clearer, such that if I worked hard and believed in myself, in America I could do anything or be anything I wanted to be,” she said.
Jackson’s husband and two daughters were also in attendance.
To her daughters, she said: “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 with hard work, determination, and love, it can be done.”
Ketanji Brown Jackson had an incredible message for young people of colour
As the first Black female to be nominated for a seat on the Supreme Court, Jackson is paving the way for other young people of colour to follow in her footsteps.
When asked by California senator Alex Padilla about what she would say to young people of colour, she replied passionately, “I would tell them to persevere.”
“The young people are the future,” she went on, “and I want them to know that they can do and be anything,” responded Jackson with emotion.
Ketanji Brown Jackson was praised for “grit and grace” in the face of a problematic hearing
“This confirmation has been a reminder… that people of colour, particularly those that have the audacity to try to be the first, often have to work twice as hard to get half the respect,” said Senator Alex Padilla at one point.
Senator Cory Booker echoed these sentiments, claiming that some Republican senators had been “seeking to exploit the complexities of the criminal justic system” by pulling small details about her previous work as a judge, particularly in regards to her sentencing record in cases of child sexual abuse, out of context.
Booker went on, moving Jackson to tears. “You sat with grit and grace and have shown us just extraordinary demeanor during times when people were saying things to you that are actually out of the norm,” he said.
It’s high-time a Black woman sat on the Supreme Court – and based on Jackson’s exemplary performance during the confirmation hearings this week, there could be no better judge to pave the way.
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