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'Critical Race Theory' Has Become, Ironically, a Racist Dog Whistle Among Republicans

The GOP's response to Ketanji Brown Jackson's historic SCOTUS nomination is saying the quiet part out loud.

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Image for article titled 'Critical Race Theory' Has Become, Ironically, a Racist Dog Whistle Among Republicans
Screenshot: Twitter

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is the first Black woman to be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. She’s incredibly qualified for the job and quite popular with the American public, and so Senate Republicans haven’t been able to find much to complain, so they’re simply making an issue out the fact that she’s Black.

Jackson’s confirmation hearings are underway, we’ve already witnessed several blatantly racist attacks by Senate Republicans and the GOP as a whole, who are trying to tie her to their political bogeyman of the moment—“critical race theory”—despite the fact that the academic theory is entirely irrelevant to her work as a judge and potential future justice.

On Tuesday, the official Twitter account of the Republican Party simply put a strike through Jackson’s initials and replaced them with “CRT,” a move clearly intended to cast doubt on the idea that a Black woman could possibly ever think on a high level about issues other than her own race and have the necessary mindset, judiciousness and neutrality to qualify for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

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Texas Sen. Ted Cruz used his time to grill Jackson about a book by Ibram X. Kendi titled Antiracist Baby, which is taught at a Georgetown Day School in DC, where Jackson sits on the board. Cruz couldn’t wait to point out Jackson’s affiliation with an institution that teaches youngsters about societal ills that they will grow up to encounter. “Do you agree with this book that is being taught with kids that babies are racist?” Cruz demanded.

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Jackson maintained her composure, sighed, and calmly responded to the ridiculous question. “I do not believe that any child should be made to feel as though they are racist, or though they are not valued, or though that they are less than, that they are victims, that they are oppressors.”

Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) noted, ironically, that he doesn’t want the subject of race to interfere with the agenda he shares with his equally dense colleagues who are approaching this notable nomination with antagonistic vibes. While addressing Jackson, the senator made a sarcastic barb about how white supremacy has overtaken the principles of the GOP—directly to the face of the first Black woman Supreme Court nominee.

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“We’re all racist if we ask hard questions,” Graham complained. “It’s not gonna fly with us. We’re used to it by now, at least I am. So it’s not gonna matter a bit.”

Well, actually it does matter a lot.

Critical race theory has been a rallying point for misguided Republicans who are rightly concerned that educating students about the real-life ways in which race impacts their lives is going to turn everyone away from the very white, often very racist Republican Party. Ironically, their use of the term “CRT” as a racist dog whistle to undermine a Black woman’s illustrious career illustrates exactly why CRT is being taught in the first place, and why Jackson’s historic appointment is so critical.

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Jackson hasn’t flinched through any of these moments, because she can’t—the rules governing Black women’s behavior in government are different from those that, say, governed Brett Kavanaugh’s. She can’t cry and rage like Kavanaugh. She is calmly handling these line of questioning with an admirable level of gracefulness that must be difficult, considering the clowns to whom she’s having to defend herself.

We knew that the confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson had the potential to go off the rails, given the historic nature of this epic nomination, but to see it play out in real time is pretty sobering. Just confirm her already.