IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Cory Booker unleashes the power of Ketanji Brown Jackson's history

The senator and Supreme Court nominee's exchanges have been the most enlightening, moving moments of the hearings so far.


Sen. Cory Booker’s exchanges with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson have been, by far, the most relevant and moving lines of questioning to have occurred during Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings

The New Jersey Democrat used his 30-minute time slot on Tuesday to correct the record following Sen. Tom Cotton’s questions, which were meant to depict Jackson as soft on crime and deferential to criminals. (I explained why those claims fell flat here.) The line of attack from Cotton, R-Ark., aligned with other Republicans' talking points throughout the hearings, all of which served the same purpose: to suggest this Black woman was not to be trusted. 

Her parents’ lived experiences with racism, now memorialized in the Congressional Record, are the very stories the conservative movement is trying to suppress.

Booker's exchanges with Jackson injected some much-needed humanity into the hearings. In my view, one of the most touching moments came on Tuesday, when he addressed the insulting questions and accusations Jackson endured from Republicans.

“I’ve just watched you, with dignity and grace, field what I can only imagine is behind those questions — this doubt that is being sown,” Booker said. “I just want America to know that when it comes to my family’s safety — when it comes to Newark, New Jersey, or my state — God, I trust you.” 

Booker's affirmations declared, before the world, what Black people have always known: Our interpretations of justice are no less valid than white, conservative interpretations.

Republicans have repeatedly tried to get Jackson to denounce Black authors, anti-racist legal concepts like critical race theory and judicial measures that stem racial inequality. But the Booker-Jackson back-and-forths have allowed the judge to celebrate her Blackness by praising her place in history, saluting her Black upbringing and recognizing it as the uplifting force it has been and continues to be for her.  

Asked what values she inherited from her parents, Jackson spoke about how they grew up in an era of de jure segregation; how they went to historically Black colleges to better themselves; and how, after the passage of federal civil rights laws in the 1960s, they sought to establish a new life in the nation’s capital.

Here’s an excerpt:

My parents moved to Washington, D.C., because this is where it all started for them in terms of having new freedoms. And I was born here, on that hope and dream. I was born here, with an African name that my parents gave me to demonstrate their pride — their pride in who they were and their pride and hope in what I could be.

Jackson recounting her family history in this setting was a moment dripping with symbolism. 

Her parents’ lived experiences with racism, now memorialized in the Congressional Record, are the very stories the conservative movement is trying to suppress with things like book bans and restrictions on school curricula. Civil rights laws like the ones Jackson’s parents used to forge new lives in Washington, D.C., are laws the conservative movement is trying to undo. And Jackson, on the verge of being confirmed to the Supreme Court, represents the progress they want to stave off.

On Wednesday, Booker again spent most of his time paying respect to Jackson's journey:

For everyone involved, I think these tender moments have been much-needed reprieves from Republicans' tantrums.

And I think Jackson's testimony has been, in many ways, a rebuttal to the whitewashed world conservatives wish to create. She's made an emphatic declaration: “I am somebody. I belong to a family. We belong to a community, and we command respect.”