Racism in the US Senate

Rosetta Miller Perry, publisher, The Tennessee Tribune, National Newspaper Publishers Foundation, Treasurer

By Rosetta Miller-Perry 

This week, our young people, the nation and the world have had a chance to see both the best and worse of America in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings regarding President Biden’s nomination of the Hon. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court. Jackson handled herself with extreme dignity, responding to often stupid, KKK racist irrelevant and insulting questions with detailed, thoughtful responses, and remaining respectful to Senators and Congressmen. She was often cut off in mid-answer, interrupting or refusing to let her complete responses, and just behaving with the standard contempt and animus they have for Black people in general, and in particular any Black person with a chance to reach a position of power. 

For three days, including a marathon 13-hour session Tuesday, Jackson had to hear comments and answer questions from right-wing white leaning KKK racist Republicans that ranged from inaccurate to irrelevant to total mischaracterizations of both the law and her record. Sadly, many were nothing more than racist insults masquerading as policy points. 

Lindsey Graham who I use to admire and respect and Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada whom I never respected his intellect, repeatedly tried to make it seem that the honorable Judge Jackson had somehow not been hard enough on child pornography. Graham also accused her of “judicial activism,” (“legislating from the bench”). This is what some Republicans want when it comes to repealing abortion laws or imposing bans on transexuals, but otherwise claim to oppose. 

“Every person in all of these charts and documents, I sent to jail. Because I know how serious this crime is,” Jackson told Graham during an exchange about the child pornography cases.Then another ardent right-wing reactionary Josh Hawley who looks like his name sounds, tried to bring it up again, prompting Judge Jackson to say “I’ll stand on my answer.” She rightly told the equally ridiculous Tom Cotton, who hasn’t realized that, we don’t pick cotton anymore, said, “What I regret is that in a hearing about my qualifications … we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on this small subset of my sentences.” 

In addition, Cruz tried to hammer Jackson on critical race theory questions one day and transgender issues other, while yet another GOP senator droned on about cancel culture. NONE of those things have the slightest relevance to her competence to be on the Supreme Court, and are simply standard right-wing rhetoric designed to get support from their cadre of Trump supporters. 

But while this crew of lightweights, whose ranks also include Tennessee’s own stalwart Trump supporter Marsha Blackburn, repeatedly displayed conduct that reflected the absolute worse in American decorum and behavior, Senator Cory Booker demonstrated the best. Booker, a New Jersey Democrat and one of three sitting Black U.S. senators, lauded Jackson for reaching the heights of the U.S. judiciary as both a Black woman and working mother. 

“It’s hard for me not to look at you and not see my mom. Not to see my cousins, one of them who had to come here and sits behind you. She had to have your back. I see my ancestors and yours,” Booker said. “But don’t worry, my sister. Don’t worry. God has got you. And how do I know that? You’re here, and I know what it’s taken for you to sit in that seat.“You have earned this spot,” Booker added.“You are worthy. You are a great American.” 

Throughout his monologue, Booker cited the Black men and women who had helped pave a path for Jackson and himself. He talked about how the abolitionist Harriet Tubman was beaten before she escaped slavery, then went back to save other slaves, establishing a network of safe houses. Tubman, Booker said, would gaze at the night sky looking for a star that was a “harbinger of hope.” 

 “I thought about her. And how she looked up, she kept looking up no matter what they did to her she never stopped looking up. And that star was a harbinger of hope,” Booker said. “Today, you’re my star. You are my harbinger of hope. This country’s getting better and better and better. And when that final vote happens, and you ascend on to the highest court in the land, I’m going to rejoice.” 

He also accurately depicted the tactics and questioning of Republicans. “I mean, this is a new low,” Booker said of the GOP attacks, especially the claim made by Hawley that Jackson went easy on child pornography defendants. “What’s especially surprising about this is it didn’t happen last year [when Jackson was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit]. You were put on a court that I’m told is considered like the second most powerful court in our land. And you passed with bipartisan support. Nobody brought it up then. Did they not do their homework?” 

Judge Jackson should and will be confirmed to the Court, although the Congress will continue to be dominated by backward racist white right-wing types. But at least her presence adds some balance and also finally erases another barrier to progress in this nation, the absence of a Black woman on the highest court in the land. These hearings also reveal the continual decline of the Republican Party as I have known since my deceased mother was a Republican and I sadly watch its descent into hate speechs, racist caricature and demagoguery. 

Finally: People with white color can change their shade, but those of us with darker skin cannot. So, don’t judge us based on our color, but do it based on our intellect. 

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”