• Mar 23, 2022

Historic hearing takes turn into familiar territory on race and crime, experts say

March 23, 2022
Janelle Griffith, NBC News

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An Arkansas senator “attempting to associate a Black SCOTUS nominee with a rise in dangerous crime is also a page from the confirmation hearing for Thurgood Marshall,” Ifill tweeted Tuesday.

Guy-Uriel Charles, a professor at Harvard Law School, attributed that to what he described as a combination of “extreme partisanship” and racial and gender dynamics.

“There’s no doubt that the Republicans are trying to score as many partisan points as they possibly can with their base, and that they believe that there is some retribution to be paid for past Republican nominees,” such as Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh, he said. “So part of their motivation is clearly partisan. One has to account for that.”

He said there is no doubt that Republican senators such as Ted Cruz “have not been sufficiently attentive to the gender and racial dynamics” of accusing the first Black woman nominated for the Supreme Court of being soft on crime and distorting both her record as a judge and her writing when she was a law student. Cruz, who represents Texas, spent his time Tuesday afternoon questioning Jackson about her views on critical race theory and whether babies are racist. He also suggested that she coddles criminals.

“Certainly, the racial aspect of it with Thurgood Marshall, there’s continuity there,” Charles said. The treatment of Jackson is even more complicated, he said, when you add in gender, partisanship and race.

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These are among the reasons Charles said the suggestion that she is someone who coddles criminals couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Part of what’s actually, quite frankly, interesting to me is, she is very much in the mold of the God, country, service candidate,” Charles said. All three are qualities Republican senators purport to be looking for in a Supreme Court justice, he said.

“She’s not even close to the person that is being caricatured,” Charles said.

Jackson has also been subjected to racist tropes during the hearings, Charles and Wright said, including from Sen. John Neely Kennedy, R-La., who told her multiple times that she is “intelligent and articulate.”

“You could tell that there’s sort of an attempt to inoculate themselves,” Charles said. “They start out by saying, ‘You’re very qualified. You’re very articulate. You’re very intelligent.'”

He said it’s a poorly veiled attempt to suggest they are focusing on her record and are not engaged in race-baiting or treating her differently.

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