In the midst of the racism and sordid headline-seeking Republicans have brought to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Sen. Cory Booker brought a declaration of hope and joy, one worth watching in its entirety (below). Booker brought Jackson to tears as he spoke directly to their shared experience as Black people rising to the highest levels of achievement and recognition, directly acknowledging the ugliness from his Republican colleagues on the Judiciary Committee but also invoking the pride and love that many Black people feel to see Jackson and Booker sitting where they are right now.
Speaking personally, Booker said, “I’m not letting anybody in the Senate steal my joy.”
“You didn’t get here because of some left-wing agenda. You didn’t get here because of some dark money groups,” Booker added, referring to some of the Republican attacks on Jackson. “You got here how every Black woman in America has gotten anywhere has done. By being—like Ginger Rogers said, ‘I did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.’”
Jackson was visibly moved, dabbing her eyes with a tissue as Booker spoke.
Booker spoke powerfully and at length to “what it means” that Jackson is sitting in that seat, nominated to the Supreme Court.
“I want to tell you, when I look at you, this is why I get emotional. I’m sorry, you’re a person that is so much more than your race and gender. You’re a Christian, you’re a mom, you’re an intellect, you love books, but for me, I’m sorry, it’s hard for me not to look at you and see my mom, not to see my cousins—one of them who had to come here and sit behind you. She had to have your back. I see my ancestors and yours. Nobody’s going to steal the joy of that woman in the street or the calls I’m getting or the texts. Nobody’s going to steal that joy. You have earned this spot. You are worthy. You are a great American.”
Before he got there, though, Booker opened by taking aim at the Republican attacks and celebrating Jackson’s response to them, saying, “This has been not a surprise, given the history that we all know, not a surprise but perhaps a little bit of a disappointment, some of the things that have been said in this hearing. The way you have dealt with these things—that is why you are a judge and I am a politician, because you have sat with grit and grace and have shown us, just extraordinary demeanor during the time where people were saying things to you that are actually out of the norm.”
Booker specifically called out Sen. Josh Hawley’s cherrypicking of Jackson’s sentencing record, quoting the conservative National Review on Hawley’s “disingenuous attack” and accusations that are “meritless to the point of demagoguery.”
The attacks are “a new, new low and what’s especially surprising about this is it didn’t happen last year. You were put on a court that I’m told is considered like the second-most powerful court in our land. And you were passed with bipartisan support. Nobody brought it up then. Did they not do their homework? Were they lax, did they make a mistake? I wonder as they ask you the question, do you regret? I wonder if they regret that? That they didn’t bring that out? No. Why? Because it was an allegation that is meritless to the point of demagoguery,” Booker said.
But Booker’s rebuttal to the Republican attacks—as important as it was—took second place to his strong invocation of U.S. history, a history in which “there were laws in this country that would have prevented you from marrying your husband. It wasn’t that long ago, it was the last generation.”
The Black Americans who fought through to the point where Jackson is sitting as a nominee to the Supreme Court being questioned by the fourth Black senator ever popularly elected “didn’t stop loving this country even though this country didn’t love them back,” Booker said, going on to quote Langston Hughes, “’O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath—America will be!’” He invoked not just Black people but also Irish immigrants and LGBTQ people and women fighting through discrimination in the determination to fulfill the promises the nation has so often made and failed to keep.
“You have faced insults here that were shocking to me. Well, actually, not shocking. But you are here because of that kind of love, and nobody’s taking this away from me,” Booker said.
Going on to speak of Harriet Tubman, one of his own heroes, and how “no matter what they did to her, she never stopped looking up,” looking to a star as a harbinger of hope, Booker concluded, “Today, you are my star. You are my harbinger of hope. This country is getting better and better and better. And when that final vote happens, and you ascend onto the highest court in the land, I’m going to rejoice. And I’m going to tell you right now, the greatest country in the world, the United States of America, will be better because of you.”
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.