Ted Cruz's Remarks Towards Judge Ketanji Brown-Jackson Were Problematic
In the spirit of protecting Black women, Ted Cruz should be called out for his disrespect of the office of Judge Ketanji Brown-Jackson
March 23, 2022 at 6:46 pm
“This is not a normal day in America.” These were the opening words of remarks made by Senator Cory Booker in the confirmation hearing of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Those eight words captured what so many of us, especially Black members of Gen Z, are feeling as we watch HERstory being made this week.
At the same time, history is a funny thing. We like to think it is about truth and ensuring that future generations of our nation are aware of our past so we can learn from our mistakes and successes. We like to believe that we can all agree on that history and realize that no nation or people are perfect.
If you were watching the start of the confirmation hearing this morning for Supreme Court of the United States nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson you would see just how easy it is to deliberately attempt to mislead and ignore the truth. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee spent their day laying the groundwork for their case to attack and discredit Judge Brown Jackson and ensure that a new history of our nation is portrayed that is sanitized of all the realities we have experienced as a nation.
Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas kicked off the afternoon with his opening remarks to twist our nation’s history. He immediately started with “the Biden administration is waging a war on the rule of law, the separation of powers, and the Constitution”. Later in his remarks, he shared his “concerns” about the rights of parents to take on “entrenched teacher unions who are poisoning their children with racist vitriol known as critical race theory”. Yes, this is a U.S. Senator in 2022.
Senator Ted Cruz, from my home state of Texas and never to be outdone by those Senators from the MAGA wing of the Republican Party, also used his opening remarks to show his disdain for our nation’s history and his outright hate for any progress that has been made towards ensuring a just and equal society of all Americans. Senator Cruz opened his remarks by reminding the world that a nation that pledges “liberty and justice for all” has never truly lived up to those powerful words. Senator Cruz shared that 11,107 men and women have served in the United States House of Representatives. 1,994 men and women have served in the United States Senate. Of those 13,101 men and women that have served in both chambers, only 175 have been Black Americans.
Senator Cruz went further and shared that there have been 115 men and women who have been appointed to lifetime appointments as Supreme Court Justices. Of that two have been Black men and there have been 0, yes 0, Black women. With the nomination and confirmation of Judge Brown Jackson, we will see in 2022 another historic racist barrier finally broken down.
As much as the opening words of Senator Cruz are both enlightening and a reminder of just how much work our nation has to do to live up to those words of “liberty and justice for all” the next remarks by Senator Cruz demonstrate where our nation is on our current historical timeline.
Senator Cruz shared with all watching and listening that he felt the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) had been an amazing institution until the 1960s and 1970s. He said the following:
“Well what changed is starting in the 1960s and the 1970s the Supreme Court’s role in our society changed dramatically. The Supreme Court became a policy making body rather than a merely judicial body. Just a moment ago my colleague Senator Klobachar said we should consider the Supreme Court’s place in our democracy. Well starting in the 60s and 70s the Supreme Court decided its place in our democracy, at least to many Justices, was to set aside the democratic decisions of the people and instead mandate the policy outcomes they themselves supported.”
When you dive into those words by Senator Cruz, you think about what SCOTUS decisions were made in the 1960s and 1970s and how they are connected to the nation we live in today. Were they truly undemocratic or were these decisions made to ensure that all voices were heard, respected, and protected in our democracy? Let’s take a look at some cases decided by SCOTUS in the 1960s and 1970s and think about if they were the wrong decisions.
In the 1960 case Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454, SCOTUS on a 7 to 2 decision overruled a conviction of Howard University School of Law student Bruce Boyton for trespassing. Mr. Boynton had been convicted of trespassing for sitting in a bus station restaurant that was designated as “whites only”. Mr. Boyton was represented by attorney and future member of the Supreme Court of the United States, Thurgood Marshall. This decision by SCOTUS reaffirmed the importance of the Interstate Commerce Act to protect Americans from racial discrimination.
Also in 1960, and directly related to ongoing struggles to address voting rights, SCOTUS ruled unanimously in Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339, that states violate the protections provided by the 15th Amendment when states draw boundary lines for electoral districts that deny equal representation to African Americans. This case overturned a decision by the state of Alabama to draw a district that deliberately denied African Americans in the city of Tuskegee political power.
In 1964, SCOTUS ruled with a 6 to 3 decision in Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, that Congressional districts must have roughly equal populations. This is part of three SCOTUS decisions during the 1960s that ensure the principle of “one person, one vote” in our democracy.
In the 1970s, we had groundbreaking decisions such as Roe v. Wade that protected the rights of women to control their bodies. We also had United States v. Nixon in 1974 where the SCOTUS ruled 8 to 0 that President Nixon could not use executive privilege to protect his communications with his staff from being turned over to investigators during the Watergate investigation.
There are other cases such as National Labor Relations Board v. Washington Aluminum Co. where on a 7 to 2 decision, SCOTUS affirmed the right of workers to take collective action. In 1963 in Edwards v. South Carolina, SCOTUS on an 8 to 1 decision upheld the 1st and 14th Amendment rights of Americans to peacefully assemble and march at a state capitol. In 1964 SCOTUS ruled in Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County that a county could not shut down a local school and give white students a voucher to attend schools in other areas.
These are just some of the important cases that were decided by the Supreme Court of the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. Senator Cruz believes that it was these and many more decisions during these two decades that have undermined the legitimacy of the Supreme Court in our nation. In reality Senator Cruz it was these two decades of SCOTUS decisions that have provided all Americans with a foundation for equality in our nation and the right to fully participate in our democracy. It was these decisions and SCOTUS members who made them that have allowed our nation to move forward and make progress towards becoming a nation that ensures “liberty and justice for all”.
The nomination and confirmation process of Judge Brown Jackson is truly HERstoric. It serves as a point of inspiration that many Gen Z Americans will use during their lives to pursue their dreams and overcome barriers. At the same time, this process that Judge Brown Jackson is navigating is also showing the deliberate actions that individuals like Senator Cruz will take this week and in the future to attack and dismantle the progress our nation has made since 1776. It is important that we push back on this revisionist agenda and ensure that the rights that so many Americans have fought for over the past 246 years are not dismantled.
Haley Taylor Schlitz is 19 years old and in her third year at SMU Dedman School of Law. In May of 2019, she became Texas Woman’s University’s youngest graduate in history when she graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas Woman’s University College of Professional Education. She is also the host of the online show Zooming In w/Gen Z. Follow all her endeavors on Instagram and Twitter.