Leave it to Sen. Ted Cruz to bang the drum on critical race theory while questioning the first Black woman ever nominated to the Supreme Court.
On the second day of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings, the Texas Republican senator pushed her to answer a variety of questions related to critical race theory, the previously obscure academic and legal framework that conservatives have pushed as Marxist indoctrination of America’s children, and have successfully banned in several states, including Texas.
At one point, Cruz even pointedly asked Jackson if she believes babies are racist.
Cruz, who attended Harvard Law School at the same time as Jackson, opened by asking Jackson if the judge agreed with the Martin Luther King Jr. quote, delivered during his “I Have a Dream” speech, that he hoped his children would “one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
After Jackson said she did agree, Cruz began questioning her about the New York Times’ 1619 Project. Cruz, like Sen. Marsha Blackburn, raised a 2020 speech Jackson gave at the University of Michigan in which she described the 1619 Project as “provocative” and its creator, Nikole Hannah-Jones, as an “acclaimed investigative journalist.” (Jones ultimately won a Pulitzer Prize for an essay she wrote as part of the project, and the Pulitzer committee also described her essay as “provocative.”)
“It’s not something I studied, it doesn’t come up in my work as a judge,” Jackson said of the 1619 Project. Jackson similarly said she doesn’t believe critical race theory is taught in schools, but that she “hasn’t studied it” and that she’s never “relied on” the theory in her judicial philosophy.
Cruz later shifted his attention to Georgetown Day School, a Washington, D.C. private school where Jackson serves as a board member, and which she previously praised for its commitment to “fostering critical thinking, interdependence, and social justice.”
Jackson then provided Cruz with a brief history of the school, which opened in 1945 as D.C.'s first racially integrated school nearly 10 years before Brown v. Board of Education.
“The idea of equality, justice, is at the core of the Georgetown Day School mission,” Jackson said. “And it’s a private school such that every parent who joins the community does so with an understanding that they’re joining a community that is designed to ensure that every child is valued.”
Cruz then produced a number of books he said were “either assigned or recommended” at Georgetown Day School, including a book called Antiracist Baby. The author of the children’s book, historian Ibram X. Kendi, has said it was conceived as “a tool to be able to talk about being anti-racist with my young daughter.” Cruz told the hearing it had been assigned to pre-schoolers at Georgetown Day School.
Cruz then asked Jackson: “Do you agree with this book… that babies are racist?”
“Senator,” Jackson said, before audibly sighing. “I do not believe that any child should be made to feel as though they are racist or as though they are not valued or less than or victims or oppressors. I don’t believe in any of that.” Jackson then clarified that she understood Cruz’s question on whether critical race theory was being taught in K-12 schools to pertain to public schools, and insisted that the Georgetown school’s board does not interfere with curriculum.
Cruz continued to press Jackson on the books, asking Jackson if she was “comfortable” with the books being taught to kids at the private school.
“I have not reviewed any of those books, any of those ideas,” Jackson said, seemingly exasperated. “They don’t come up in my work as a judge. Which I am, respectfully, here to address.”
Cruz’s Senate website, by the way, describes school choice—the insistence that parents have the option to send their children to private school that teaches a curriculum that squares with their own values—as “the civil rights issue of the 21st century.”
Cruz has also consistently argued that private schools should be outside of the government’s purview, signing onto a 2020 amicus brief that argued Kentucky private schools should not be subject to coronavirus orders issued by Gov. Andy Beshear and saying the orders “subvert the Bill of Rights and our constitutional liberties.”
Jackson’s confirmation hearing will conclude Thursday, meaning it’s not even halfway over.
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