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Opinion: Opposition to Ketanji Brown Jackson is 'misogynoir' writ large

Gunnar Gundersen explores the intersectional dynamics at play in the historic ascension of the first Black woman to the US Supreme Court.

(Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

On Thursday, April 7th, 2022, history was made. The US Senate voted to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court. She is the first Black woman ever to serve in the position.

This is yet another step toward equality and the dismantling of White Supremacy in America.

It has not, however, been without extreme resistance from White Supremacists themselves, who engaged in various tactics to discredit Jackson. For example, several GOP senators decided to paint her as soft on child pornography and child sex abuse criminals. This strategy became a talking point throughout the conservative world, including on White Supremacist media like Tucker Carlson’s program on Fox News.

Even so, the critique of Jackson was thoroughly discredited and rebuked by former federal judge J. Michael Luttig, himself a conservative who helped advise Mike Pence to resist the Trump-incited coup attempt on January 6th, 2021.

But the GOP-backed criticism was racist not merely because it was baseless. It was actually a reflection of a deeply held prejudice against Black women—misogynoir—perpetuated by White Supremacy to justify mistreatment and oppression.

Black women have long been the subject of various stereotypes regarding children and deviant sexual behavior. Deeply ingrained in White Supremacist thought is the idea that Black women do not truly care for children, including or especially their own. Also present is the idea that Black women cannot be trusted to uphold any kind of sexual ethics.

One of the modern manifestations of these stereotypes is the idea of the “welfare queen”, a Black woman who has more children simply to maximize government benefits—and who is willing to be with as many men as possible to make that happen. (Many such stereotypes have negative impacts on Black women’s health, as detailed in 2016 by the National Institutes of Health.)

Another distortion depicts Black mothers as indifferent to the sexual exploitation of their children. Thus, it is fully consistent with White Supremacist depictions to paint someone like Jackson as prone to tolerating child pornography and going easy on its perpetrators—as she was accused of doing by Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

Indeed, instead of criticizing Jackson in a way that was race-neutral, Republican senators leveraged existing anti-Black stereotypes. The tropes were simply transmuted to meet a new context in which White Supremacists sought to oppress Black women by continuing to exclude them from the US Supreme Court.

Thankfully, these efforts failed. And the credit belongs to Justice Jackson first of all—she is eminently qualified and deserves this appointment. (Listen to her own words about her confirmation here).

Her new position is also a win for Black women, the entire Black community, the United States, the Supreme Court, and all people of goodwill. This was a day when White Supremacy and all of its lies about Black women could not turn us back from becoming a more perfect union. This was a day when the evil lies of racists were rendered—even if just for a moment—powerless.

Gunnar Gundersen is an attorney in Newport Beach, CA. He serves in his parish council and choir, is a published essayist, and regularly lectures on natural law and the American Founding. He is also the first Ordinariate member of the Knights of Peter Claver. Follow him on Twitter at @GBGundersen.

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