By Dan Holly
Fox News host Tucker Carlson has been widely and justifiably criticized for his comments about Ketanji Brown Jackson, the woman President Joe Biden has nominated for the Supreme Court vacancy created when Stephen Breyer announced his retirement. But there’s still more to be said.
During Women’s History Month, it is great that we are celebrating the achievements of women, and I don’t want to take away from that one bit. But the comments made by Carlson – one of the top hosts at the nation’s most-watched cable TV network – illustrates the difference between the struggles of women and the struggles of Black women.
For anyone who didn’t hear, Carlson said this about Ms. Jackson on March 2:
“So is Ketanji Brown Jackson, a name that even Joe Biden has trouble pronouncing, one of the top legal minds in the entire country? It might be time for Joe Biden to let us know what Ketanji Brown Jackson’s LSAT score was. How did she do on the LSATs? It would seem like Americans in a democracy have a right to know.”
Let’s skip over Carlson’s racist dog whistle about pronouncing Jackson’s name and focus on the rest of what he said. It is not surprising that Carlson, an ultraconservative who abhors all things liberal, would oppose a Democratic nominee. But what do her LSAT scores have to do with anything? The only feasible implication is that she is not smart enough to be on the high court.
Wow. Ms. Jackson’s qualifications include graduating from Harvard Law School, serving as a supervising editor for the Harvard Law Review, and clerking for three judges including Justice Breyer. She currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals.
What does a Black woman have to do to get past conservatives questioning her intelligence? Apparently, for racists like Carlson, the color of Jackson’s skin is blinding him to her qualifications.
Jackson’s nomination also has run into opposition from Republicans because Pres. Biden pledged to nominate a Black woman. Many conservatives are appalled, calling Biden a racist for coming right out and saying that his nominee would not be white or male.
On the surface, this complaint might seem to have some merit. Isn’t it racist, and sexist as well, to exclude everyone except Black women from the list of potential nominees?
But it was established long ago that the high court – in many ways the most powerful government institution – cannot be made up of entirely White men and should somewhat represent the U.S. population. When Donald Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett, she was strongly opposed by many Democrats, but the opposition was overwhelmingly based on her political views, not her intellect.
There was no opposition that I remember (or could find with a Google search) to Trump pledging to nominate a woman to the Supreme Court. He made that pledge during his campaign and he eventually chose Barrett.
And Trump wasn’t the first president to say he would nominate a woman; Pres. Ronald Reagan pledged the same during his campaign in 1980. That’s how Sandra Day O’Connor got on the Supreme Court. There was opposition but, again, opponents focused on her political views not her intellect.
Telegraphing what a nominee would look like did not ignite controversy until a president specified that the nominee would not only be a woman, but would be Black too. What Jackson’s opposition shows is that, while all women face hurdles getting to the top, Black women face more and bigger hurdles.
So let’s celebrate the achievements of all women this month but let’s keep it real about equating the struggles of White women and Black women.