Houstonians witness historic Jackson confirmation hearing
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

For Black women across the country, the confirmation hearings of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson — who is likely to become the country’s first Black woman Supreme Court justice — are a moment of pride, joy, inspiration and validation. At the start of the recent confirmation hearing, many notable Houstonians were on hand to witness Jackson’s historic journey to the most powerful bench in the United States means.

Retired judge Vanessa Gilmore outside the confirmation hearing.

“This is a historic moment and I do not want to miss it. It’s such a moment of pride, to see an African American federal judge rise all the way to the top of the rank,” said former federal judge Vanessa Gilmore who was in Washington, D.C. for the hearings.

Gilmore said the moment is historic for a number of reasons.

“We will finally have a court that looks like America. Not to mention the opportunity for this to provide encouragement for young women of color, to see that this is some place that they can aspire to be, is incomparable. And not just for young women, but for aspiring lawyers, law students and those of us, who’ve really already peaked in our careers, in the judiciary or in the C-suites. It’s a way for us to be able to show one of our own has risen to the top. And it gives all of us an opportunity to say we belong in the places where we are. We have the talent, we have the ability. I just believe that when one rises all of us rise,” she said.

Republicans aggressively pressed Jackson on the sentences she has handed down to sex offenders in her nine years as a federal judge, her advocacy on behalf of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, her thoughts on critical race theory and even her religious views. At one point, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas read from children’s books that he said are taught at her teenage daughter’s school.

Several GOP senators grilled her on her child pornography sentences, arguing they were lighter than federal guidelines recommend. She said she based the sentences on many factors, not just the guidelines, and said some of the cases had given her nightmares.

Gilmore says the attacks from Republican Senators like Ted Cruz, don’t surprise her.

“It’s unfortunate. And it still hammer’s home that we have to be twice as good because she is beyond qualified. So to the extent that there was any pushback, the tone of the pushback was decidedly political. It wasn’t about her personally. It wasn’t about her qualifications except for one senator at the end, who seemed to start attacking her personally about her liking the 1619 project and her helping children at a kindergarten be proud of who they were, no matter who they are.”