Black Americans say attacks on Ketanji Brown Jackson won't dampen her moment

"This barrier-breaking moment was met with disdain that this racial barrier is being broken," said Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster.

After Jessica Fullilove, 31, a student at Northern Illinois University College of Law, attended the second day of hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, she couldn't help but feel disillusioned about the process and the Republican senators whom she said had made a mockery of it.

"When you see someone who has worked their butt off, has pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, they've been the best of the best in everything, went to Harvard Law, went to Harvard for undergrad, clerked for a Supreme Court justice and graduated with honors, still have their accomplishments diminished, it does something to you," Fullilove said.

"That hope that America is supposed to stand for, it dims that light," she added. 

The Senate confirmed Jackson to the Supreme Court on Thursday in a 53-47 vote, with only three Republicans supporting her. Fullilove and other Black Americans said in interviews that the behavior of Republican senators like Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Josh Hawley during the confirmation process had put a bit of a damper on what should have been a celebratory occasion for all Americans.

Some Republican senators accused Jackson, the first Black woman confirmed to the court, of being soft on pedophiles and having a secret radical agenda, and that she would have defended Nazis at Nuremberg. 

"I hate that a Black woman especially had to undergo this process and be faced with such vitriol and used kind of as a wall for the senators to bounce their midterm messaging off of," said Simone Yhap, 24, a third-year student at Northeastern University School of Law, who also attended the second day of hearings.

Fullilove, Yhap and other members of the National Black Law Students Association traveled to Washington last month for the hearing. Fullilove said she was particularly moved when Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., the only Black senator on the 22-member Judiciary Committee, told Jackson on the third day of hearings that he knew the systemic barriers she had to overcome to ascend academically and professionally.

"You have earned this spot. You are worthy. You are a great American," he told Jackson.

But it was something else Booker told Jackson — "I'm not letting anybody in the Senate steal my joy" — that Fullilove said she was carrying with her in this history-making moment.

"I am still going to celebrate the fact that there's a woman like me, who looks like me, talks like me, probably uses some of the same hair products I use, sitting on the highest court of the land," she said.

Jackson’s nomination, Fullilove said, has reminded her of the joy and pride she felt when Barack Obama was elected president and, 12 years later, Kamala Harris vice president.

"And now, I'm thinking about how I feel, as I'm watching another history-making appointment coming with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson," she said.

When Fullilove compares herself to family members who lived through the Jim Crow era, she said she feels grateful to have witnessed three racial ceilings broken in her lifetime.

Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster who worked for Obama, said the atmosphere at Jackson's hearings was far different from the confirmation of Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female Supreme Court justice, in 1981.



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