Opinion: The Republican Senate leader’s announcement that he will not vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson perfectly encapsulates the racism, sexism and partisanship of modern politics.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
I am sexist.
It does not matter if my actions or thoughts were intentional, subconscious or the result of me existing as a man in a patriarchal society does not matter. In order for me to correct my sexism, I must first acknowledge that I have engaged in “behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex.” No one has ever explained sexism to me this way; I learned it from watching how people respond to qualified, experienced Black women.
After the late educator Barbara C. Moore hired me straight out of college, I was lucky enough to work under the guidance of a stream of exceptional Black women. Current HuffPo Editor-in-Chief Danielle Belton decided I was good enough to become a full-time writer after Ebony’s Britni Danielle and The Root’s Yesha Callahan found me ranting about race in college classrooms and on various internet blogs. Since then, I’ve tried to absorb everything I could under the leadership of women like Angela Rye, comedian Amber Ruffin, Monique Judge, Genetta Adams, Susan Smith Richardson, Angela Helm, Morgan Jerkins and countless others.
Although I’ve wasted gallons of ink writing about racism, I have largely been unsuccessful explaining racism, how it works or convincing people that it even exists. I know words alone won’t cure the cancer of white supremacy. Racism is a disease that affects Black people but will only be cured when white people confront other white people about white supremacy. The same is true for sexism, homophobia and all discrimination. The reason why I have been largely unsuccessful is that white supremacy doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps there is an analogy that adequately explains the illogical insanity of systemic subjugation and oppression, but I have not found it yet. Maybe all those Black women were wrong about me. Maybe I’m not that good at writing.
Or maybe I’m not as good as Addison Mitchell McConnell, who, on Thursday, explained a quadruple-century of racism, sexism, politics and white supremacy in less than two minutes.
“Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell announced Thursday that he will vote against confirming Ketanji Brown Jackson,” the Associated Press reports, while not explaining why McConnell refuses to support Biden’s pick for the Supreme Court.
“I enjoyed meeting the nominee,” said McConnell through the mouth hole a few inches above his neck pouch. “I went into the Senate’s process with an open mind. But after studying the nominee’s record and watching her performance this week, I cannot and will not support Judge Jackson for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”
It literally doesn’t make any sense.
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, March 22, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
To be fair, McConnell also criticized Jackson’s refusal to answer questions from GOP Judiciary Committee members about adding members to the Supreme Court, her history with the Sentencing Commission and the idea that Jackson might be “soft on crime.” However, Jackson also didn’t specify whether or not she supported the National Football League’s new kickoff rule, nor did she weigh in on Iman Shumpert’s dancing ability or the “Crenshawn” plotline on Insecure’s final season (Seriously, what was that about? It didn’t go anywhere). After all, Congress is the only body that can increase the size of the Supreme Court. Even if she is confirmed, Jackson has as much dominion over the number of Supreme Court justices as she does over the NFL’s rules committee, Issa Rae’s writing process or the judges’ decision on DWTS. And in the entire 246-year history of America, the Supreme Court has conducted exactly one criminal trial—United States v. Shipp. Yet, the Associated Press reported that “McConnell’s opposition was not unexpected.”
This is what the slurry mix of politics, sexism and white supremacy looks like.
Considering Jackson’s seat on the second-highest court in America, her Harvard Law School education and the fact that she clerked for an obscure outfit called the Supreme Court of the United States of America, no one can question her relevant experience, the quality of her education or her ability to do the job. Unlike the most frequent nominees, Republicans’ objection to Jackson’s nomination has nothing to do with her moral character (Brett Kavanaugh), the timing of her nomination (Amy Coney Barrett) or a manufactured political rule (Neil Gorsuch vs. Merrick Garland). Their objections are not related to her interpretation of the Constitution, her political affiliation or even her previous court rulings. Yet every political pundit and court-watching novice in America expected Senate Republicans to declare Jackson unworthy of serving on America’s highest court. And, not only was this opposition unchallenged, we expected it.
Think about it for a minute—an entire political party unanimously agrees that an unquestionably qualified Black woman doesn’t deserve a job. While Republicans may have valid disagreements with the party that nominated Jackson, McConnell doesn’t have a logical explanation for why he disagrees with her, specifically. The only justification they can offer is: “We can do that if we want.” But we know why. Even worse, we unanimously agree that they can do that.
It is a wholly absurd thing that they have created. Yet, it also perfectly encapsulates the national pastime of white supremacy. Ultimately, everyone in America—Black or white—understood that Ketanji Brown Jackson would have a more difficult path to the Supreme Court than her predecessors. More importantly, we knew her path would be more difficult partly because she is a Black woman. She is not a member of an obscure religious sect that disregards the separation of church and state. She has not been accused of a crime. There is no dispute over who gets to fill her seat. Everything about Jackson’s process is routine except for her gender and the color of her skin.
If a million Black women hired a million Michael Harriots to peck away on a million keyboards, they couldn’t create a more symbolic metaphor for a racist country than the collective shrug America offered when Mitch McConnell poured the slurry mix of racism, sexism and white power out of his wrinkled face.
And from one sexist to another, I thank him.
Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in 2022.
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