Today Sen. Ted Cruz questioned Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson about her views on critical race theory and anti-racism. My old boss Joel Pollak called it a “masterclass” in how to question a nominee. On the other side of the aisle, there’s a pile on taking place against Cruz and many progressives and media outlets doing their best to spin this questioning as a failure.
CNN homepage right now. This is kind of the point of the showboating by Cruz et. al.: get “Jackson” and “critical race theory” together in headlines and chyrons. Media outlets might consider how much they enable this behavior with their coverage. pic.twitter.com/0IUOdWueg8
— Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) March 22, 2022
Jennifer Rubin just called it racist.
Cruz would not ask Jackson about CRT if she were not Black. That is flat out racist.
— Jennifer ‘I stand with Ukraine’ Rubin 🇺🇦🇺🇦 (@JRubinBlogger) March 22, 2022
The Sen. Judiciary Committee didn’t quite go that far but they did sort of insinuate the questions were off base.
Judge Jackson is the first Black woman ever nominated to the Supreme Court. During his questioning of her, Sen. Cruz chose to rail against children’s books on racism. Let that sink in.
— Senate Judiciary Committee (@JudiciaryDems) March 22, 2022
I could go on and on with the snide remarks.
Apparently @tedcruz thinks Judge #KetanjiBrownJackson is being confirmed to be a K-12 teacher, and not a SCOTUS judge. Perhaps he should head back to Cancun and get some sunshine, because his present gig is beyond his capabilities. #CRT
— Joy-Ann (Pro-Democracy) Reid 😷 (@JoyAnnReid) March 22, 2022
All of these responses are a pretty good indication that folks on the left would prefer people dismiss Cruz and not actually see the questioning or hear Judge Jackson’s answers. What the Cruz critics won’t tell you is that at one point, Judge Jackson seemed to be at a loss for words, uncertain how to answer a fairly simple question. If the questions were such a failure, why were they so hard to answer?
Overall, Judge Jackson did her best to keep her distance from anti-racist author Ibram Kendi even though the private school for which she sits on the board routinely assigns his books to young children. Here’s how the questioning started.
Sen. Cruz asked Judge Jackson to offer her understanding of critical race theory and she described it as an “academic theory” but added “it doesn’t come up in my work as a judge.” Cruz then offered his own brief history of CRT, how it arose at Harvard and came out of critical legal studies. “It views every conflict as a racial conflict,” Cruz said. “Do you think that’s an accurate way of viewing society and the world we live in?” he asked.
“Senator, I don’t think so,” Jackson replied.
A moment later Cruz pivoted to another question which has received a lot of discussion in the past several months. “Is critical race theory taught in schools? Is it taught in kindergarten through twelth?” Jackson replied that she didn’t believe so that it was taught at the law school level.
Cruz then segued to Brown’s position on the board of Georgetown Day School. He noted that in Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing the press focused “very intently” on her position as a board member of a religious school. He then asked about a quote where Judge Jackson had praised Georgetown Day School’s commitment to “social justice.” He asked her what she meant by that.
Judge Jackson pointed out that Georgetown Day School was founded in 1945 at a time when black children were not allowed to attend school with white children. “The idea of equality, justice is at the core of the Georgetown Day School mission. It’s a private school such that every parent who joins the community does so willingly, with an understanding that they are joining a community that is designed to make sure that every child is valued,” Jackson said.
Sen. Cruz said everyone would agree that no one should be discriminate against because of race but added that he found her uncertainty about whether CRT was taught in schools hard to reconcile with the school’s curriculum. “It’s is filled and overflowing with critical race theory,” he said. He then brought out a stack of books he said were either assigned or recommended by the school. These included Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, The End of Policing, How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi and Antiracist Baby by Ibram Kendi.
As an aide put up slides taken from the Antiracist baby book, Cruz said “One portion of the book says babies are taught to racist or antiracist, there is no neutrality.” He continued, “Another portion of the book, they recommend the babies confess when being racist. This is a book that is taught at Georgetown Day School to students in pre-K through 2nd grade, so four through seven years old. Do you agree with this book that is being taught to kids that babies are racist?”
Judge Jackson sighed and said “Senator…” and then there was a long pause lasting 7-8 seconds.
And then Judge Jackson suddenly made clear that she understood pretty clearly the kind of CRT-inspired antiracism that is being taught in schools. “I do not believe that any child should be made to feel as though they are racist or though they are not valued or though they are less than, that they are victims, that they are oppressors. I don’t believe in any of that,” she said. And in that one statement she pretty thoroughly tossed Ibram Kendi and many other antiracist trainers under the bus.
Judge Jackson then added a caveat which was almost as interesting. “When you asked me whether or not this was taught in schools, critical race theory, my understanding is that critical race as an academic theory is taught in law schools and to the extent that you were asking the question I understood you to be addressing public schools. Georgetown Day School…is a private school.”
First thing to notice is that Judge Jackson is playing the same game many progressive have played in claiming that the antiracism of Ibram Kendi is distinct from CRT, even though Kendi himself has said his definitions of racism and antiracism (the ones being taught in that children’s book) are drawn from “intersectional theory, which is one of the critical components of critical race theory, is foundational to to to being Antiracist.” He added, “I just I can’t imagine a pathway to being Antiracist that does not engage critical race theory.” So if Kendi’s antiracism is being taught in a school then that is dependent on a foundation of CRT. I guess it’s possible Judge Jackson doesn’t know this but it’s certainly not a secret.
Second thing to notice is that Judge Jackson says she thought Cruz was talking about public schools and Georgetown Day School is private. That’s true but does that mean then that the same books would not or should not be taught in public schools? That’s the implication of making the distinction, though Jackson doesn’t quite say it.
Cruz wasn’t done yet. He pulled out another book recommended for summer reading at Georgetown Day for 8 and 9 year olds. Stamped for Kids is also by Ibram Kendi and Cruz pulled a few quotes from it. “On page 33 it asks the question ‘Can we send white people back to Europe?’” He then quoted a longer passage from page 115: “The idea that we should pretend not to see racism is connected to the idea that we should pretend not to see color…to pretend not to see color is pretty convenient if you don’t want to stamp out racism in the first place.” He pointed out that this is the opposite of Dr. King’s dream about a day when people are judged not by skin color but the content of their character. “Are you comfortable with these ideas being taught to children?” Cruz asked.
Judge Jackson said once again that the material wasn’t relevant to her job as a judge and Cruz moved on. Still, I think it’s fair to say Judge Jackson was eager to keep her distance from Ibram Kendi publicly even if his work is being widely taught at a school she is connected with. Her answers also imply that she disagrees with separating children into oppressors and victims. If that’s true then she has a lot in common with some of the parents who’ve been protesting this kind of antiracist material at school board meetings across the country.
Here’s the video cued up to Cruz asking Judge Jackson about CRT.
Update: CNN actually played the clip of Cruz asking Jackson about CRT and Antiracist Baby but as you would expect analyst Abby Phillip saw Judge Jackson’s long pause as a sign she was trying to hold it together, not as a sign she didn’t know what to say. This seems like spin to me but watch the clip again and decide for yourself. Here’s that section of the exchange:
Also, here’s Kendi’s response in which he ignores that Judge Jackson tossed him under the bus and drove over him several times. Maybe he doesn’t really believe it’s true.
You know Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has impeccable credentials—and you know you’re doing the work—when @tedcruz questions her about your books since he can’t touch her record.
— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) March 22, 2022
Update: Another good example of how many outlets are treating this. Vice’s headline is “Ted Cruz Asked Ketanji Brown Jackson If She Thinks Babies Are Racist.” If “babies are racist” sounds like a dumb idea it’s not Ted Cruz’s dumb idea it’s bestselling antiracist author Ibram Kendi’s dumb idea.