During Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings on Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) questioned the Supreme Court nominee over her views on critical race theory — including whether she thinks that babies are taught to be racist.
In his line of questioning, Cruz noted that Jackson had described The 1619 Project — a Pulitzer Prize-winning analysis that examines how slavery impacted U.S. history and policy over the past four centuries — as “provocative.” Jackson also served as a board member of the Georgetown Day School, a private pre-K-12 school in the Washington, D.C. area, which Cruz took issue with due to its recommended reading list, which includes a number of anti-racist titles for children.
The school, which has long sought to address racism, was founded by Black and white families in the 1940s when segregation was still the law in D.C. and throughout the rest of the country.
“If you look at the Georgetown Day School’s curriculum, it is filled and overflowing with critical race theory,” Cruz errantly claimed during the confirmation hearings.
Jackson said that her role as a member of the school’s board didn’t include having any say on the books that are taught to students. The books, she reminded Cruz, “don’t come up in my work as a judge, which I am, respectfully, here to address.”
Cruz specifically asked Jackson to respond to a book entitled Antiracist Baby, a children’s book written by noted historian and anti-racist scholar Ibram X. Kendi.
“There are portions of this book that I find really quite remarkable,” Cruz said. “One portion of the book says babies are taught to be racist or anti-racist. Do you agree with this book that is being taught with kids that babies are racist?”
Jackson responded by saying that she didn’t believe “any child should be made to feel as though they are racist or though they are not valued or though they are less-than.” She also questioned Cruz’s line of attack, stating that she understood critical race theory — an academic discipline that examines how race and gender shape laws and policies in the United States — to be mostly “taught in law schools,” not K-12 classrooms.
Studies have shown that children in preschool can indeed develop racist viewpoints from the ideas and media that they consume. Kendi’s book seeks to expose kids to an anti-racist narrative instead.
Jackson also told Cruz that she didn’t use critical race theory in formulating her rulings.
“It doesn’t come up in my work as a judge. It’s never something that I have studied or relied on,” she said.
Cruz’s attempted “gotchas” during the hearings came less than a day after he promised that Republican senators wouldn’t make Jackson’s confirmation a “political circus.” But Cruz and his colleagues proceeded to ask Jackson inappropriate questions about her religious beliefs, deriding her for defending inmates at Guantánamo Bay and pressing her to explain her views of marriage equality.
Sen. John Cornyn, the other Republican senator from Texas, lashed out at marriage equality during the hearings, lamenting that the right of same-sex couples to marry overruled the will of people who voted to ban gay marriage in the state. “Well, senator, that is the nature of a right,” Jackson said in response.