After more than two centuries of having Johns, Davids, and Anthonys serving on the U.S. Supreme Court as jurists, it’s exciting that we may soon add a Ketanji to the mix.
With her nomination hearing looming later this month, we might as well all learn to say Ketanji Brown Jackson’s name correctly. It’s an African one and pronounced keh-TAWN-gee. It’s not difficult.
Fox TV host Tucker Carlson and his ilk need to put some respect on it. Carlson made a slick passing reference to its pronunciation on air last week, and also had the temerity to ask about her LSAT scores.
The nerve of him. He didn’t even go to graduate school, much less earn a law degree.
This is what Carlson said:
Sadly, there’s nothing new about Carlson’s lazy and overt racism. African Americans, especially those in fields dominated by white men, have long faced the indignity of having their credentials questioned. It’s even worse for Black women. No matter what, you’re never good enough in the eyes of certain people. And if your credentials are so stellar that they can’t be challenged, the proverbial goalposts are moved.
Carlson was just following puppet master Donald Trump’s playbook. Trump was a leading proponent of the lie that then-presidential candidate Barack Obama wasn’t American-born and went so far as to demand he produce his birth certificate. When that falsehood failed to stop Obama’s path to the White House, Trump moved on to demanding the president’s academic records, claiming, “I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?” (Mind you, Trump went to great lengths to keep his own academic records private.)
Jackson is a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School and was supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review. Previously, she graduated magna cum laude from Harvard-Radcliffe College in 1992. Having served nine years as a judge and clerked for outgoing Justice Stephen G. Breyer, she’s exceedingly qualified to be on the Supreme Court.
So Carlson might as well go ahead and get used to saying her name, because most political insiders expect her to be confirmed by the Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee.
Comments like his are just another offensive dog whistle that plays into racial stereotypes about African Americans and academic achievement. His coded language is designed to sow doubt in viewers’ minds about Jackson’s worthiness to serve on the nation’s highest court.
What’s especially ludicrous about Carlson’s attempt to call out Jackson is that he doesn’t understand that the LSAT tests law school readiness and attempts to determine if applications have “the skills necessary for success in the first year of law school,” according to the Law School Admission Council. Although being a good first-year law student was surely key to Jackson’s incredible success today, the test doesn’t measure her readiness to sit on the nation’s highest court.
What Carlson did was blatant. I don’t recall anyone asking about the LSAT scores of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh, or Amy Coney Barrett prior to their nomination hearings. That’s because they fit the expectation of what a justice should look like: white and privileged.
What’s different this time around is that although Jackson may be even more qualified than they were, she also is Black and female. And therein lies the rub.
She’s about to shatter one of the last glass ceilings and make the late Justice Thurgood Marshall proud. He went up against staunch Jim Crow segregationists during a contentious five-day hearing to become the nation’s first Black Supreme Court justice back in 1967. If Jackson is confirmed, she’ll have huge shoulders upon which to stand.
In 233 years, the nation’s highest court has never had an African American woman on the bench. Of all the justices who have ever served on the court, all but seven have been white men. I’ll bet that no one asked them about their test scores.
Hopefully, Senate Republicans will treat Jackson with the respect that she deserves during her confirmation hearing, which is scheduled to start March 21. She shouldn’t be treated differently merely because of race and gender.
We need her to be confirmed so we can move forward. As for Carlson and the rest, if they can’t pronounce Ketanji, maybe they can just say, “Justice Jackson.”