Brian Lehrer: It's The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC. Good morning again, everyone. For this segment, I'd like to play a few excerpts from New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, at the confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee last week of Ketanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court. Play those excerpts and open the phones for people who might identify with some of the stories he's telling, and we'll hear from her a little bit in this.
Why Cory Booker? Well, as some of you know from following the news, Senator Booker had a real moment during that hearing. We kept hearing about the Ted Cruz moments and the Lindsey Graham moments, challenging, and sometimes in ridiculous ways, Judge Jackson. I want to focus on the Senator Booker moment that really blew up online, a number of them, but that maybe you haven't heard so much on the air, where he gave Judge Jackson a little break after she was getting pounded in some of those questionable ways, like implying that she was a [unintelligible 00:01:15] type child pornography subject.
Booker used his time to give a little speech and tell a few stories that were as personal as they were political, and that did go viral online. Maybe you heard the headline from that part of the hearing, which was that Booker's speech brought Judge Jackson to tears, but that's where most of the coverage ended, or maybe included just a few seconds of Booker as they showed the image of Judge Jackson quietly tearing up. I thought, let's use the luxury of the long-form time that we have on this show to let the Booker clips stretch out a little bit, and let most of you hear these moments for the first time because I know very few people actually watch the hearings when they're happening live all day.
I've got four clips of Booker, about a minute each, and a little of Judge Jackson in a plus one. If you find yourself relating to these, you can call in and tell a little of your own story maybe at 212-433-WNYC. I'll just say that these are essentially about the experiences in life that many Black Americans have had. Since so few, relatively speaking, are in positions of power, it kind of revolves around that.
In this first clip, Booker tells a story of a Black woman he didn't know, who came up to him last week just to say what Jackson's nomination to be the first Black female Supreme Court Justice meant to her. Listeners, our first invitation is for Black women listening right now. If you feel like saying publicly what it means to you on that level, 212 433 9692. Here's the clip.
Senator Cory Booker: I just look at you and I start getting full of emotion. I'm jogging this morning, and I'm at the end of the block I live on, and I get-- because I put my music on loud when I'm jogging, trying to block out the noise of the heart attack I'm having. This woman comes up on me, practically tackles me, an African-American woman. The look on her eye, she just wanted to touch me, because I'm sitting so close to you, and tell me what it meant to her to watch you sitting where you're sitting.
You did not get there because of some left-wing agenda. You didn't get here because of some dark money groups. You got here how every Black woman in America who's gotten anywhere has done, by being like Ginger Rogers said, "I did everything Fred Astaire did but backwards in heels."
Brian Lehrer: We got a Ginger Rogers quote in there. He's got a Langston Hughes one coming up, but that's our first clip. I'll repeat our first invitation around it. Judge Jackson is many things as Booker also notes as an intellect, as a mom, as a judge, as a mentor, but he was pointing there to the fact that as the first Black woman Supreme Court nominee in the 240 plus years of this country, and given what the history of this country is, in many ways, it means a lot to him and it means a lot to that Black woman who came up to him.
If anyone listening right now relates to that and wants to say anything out loud on the radio about what it means to you, 212 433 WNYC, you're invited.
Our second clip of Cory Booker is along similar lines, but with a twist. A worker at the Capitol telling Booker how much Booker's election meant to him. Booker refers here to how Black people in high positions like his know they will keep encountering Black people disproportionately in service jobs. You'll hear him refer in this clip as well to the only Black Republican in Congress, Senator Tim Scott.
Senator Cory Booker: You and I, we appreciate something that we get that a lot of my colleagues don't. I know Tim Scott does. When I first came to this place, I was the fourth Black person ever properly elected to the United States Senate. I still remember a lot of mixed people, white folks, Black folks, were here, but at night, when people are in line to come in to clean this place, the percentage of minorities shift a lot.
I'm walking here, first week I'm here, and somebody who's been here for decades doing the urgent work of the Senate, but the unglamorous work that goes on no matter who's in offices, the guy comes up to me, all he wants to say, I can tell, is, I'm so happy you're here, but he comes up, he can't get the words out, and this man, my elder, starts crying. I just hugged him. He just kept telling me, "It is so good to see you here. It's so good to see you here. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
Brian Lehrer: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Booker says he, Judge Jackson, and Senator Tim Scott, who I guess will vote against her, by the way, I haven't seen his name on any of the list of potential Republican votes to confirm. Booker cites himself and Tim Scott and Judge Jackson, knowing they have that thing in common, being Black Americans in elite positions encountering Black Americans in service roles. Listeners, would anyone like to tell the story of your own place in any such encounter and how you make sure people feel seen or that others have seen you? Anyone relating to that Cory Booker anecdote, or have a story, 212 433 9692.
Clip number three now makes that point of a shared bond of knowledge of how things are that white people sometimes can't see, in a different way. Remember the context, all this time Senator Booker is talking, giving Judge Jackson a little breather from the questioning deep into day two of the confirmation hearing. She is occasionally tearing up a little at these historical emotional points that Booker is making. In this third clip, he references a knowing glance, with Vice President Kamala Harris, a former Senate Judiciary Committee member herself, but he starts this thought, again by mentioning Tim Scott.
Senator Cory Booker: I love my brother Tim Scott. We could write a dissertation on our disagreements. He gave the best speech on [unintelligible 00:07:59] I wish I could have given as good of a speech, but talking to the challenges and indignities that are still faced, and you're here. I was in the White House with my Democratic colleagues, and again, my joy, I can't help it. The President is asking our advice, "Who should we nominate?" Whatever. I look at Kamala and we have a knowing glance, which we've had for years when she and I used to sit on this end of this committee at times. Then I tried to get out to the President what it means, what it means. I want to tell you, when I look at you, this is why I get emotional.
Brian Lehrer: Judge Jackson was getting a little emotional too at that moment but in her very quiet professionally contained way. Callers, who has a story of a knowing glance or a historical first like that from your own life or circumstances? One final question for one final pair of clips. If you're Black in America or anyone else in this position, do you love America even when it doesn't love you? 212 433 WNYC.
I ask it that way because that's Booker's framing here for the stories that Judge Jackson has told about appreciating the opportunities that she has in this country that her parents as Black Americans coming up in a different time, didn't have. Judge Jackson does speak in this clip. It's the day before the other clips. This is in Booker's first round with her, and you'll hear how Booker reacts.
Ketanji Brown Jackson: They taught me that anything is possible in this great country. I think it came, as I said in my introduction, from the sea change that we had in this country from the 1960s when Congress passed two Civil Rights Acts, and African Americans finally had the chance to become a part of the dream, become a part of the fabric of this wonderful nation. My parents moved to Washington, D.C., because this is where it all started for them, in terms of having new freedoms. I was born here, on that hope and dream, I was born here with an African name that my parents gave me to demonstrate their pride, their pride in who they were and their pride and hope in what I could be.
Senator Cory Booker: It seems to me, as a guy whose parents came here, and you and I both were born here months apart, I would hear my parents' tough stories at the dinner table about facing bigotry here in the city. My father told me stories about his early jobs. I never noticed a hint of bitterness or that hate he saw. It never generated hate with him. In fact, he just loved people, all people.
Brian Lehrer: Loved people, all people. There's that. Finally, to expand on that last clip, then we'll go to your calls. Here's Booker from day two, again, reflecting on the exchange that we just heard. He also quotes from memory, Langston Hughes.
Senator Cory Booker: There is a love in this country that is extraordinary. You admitted it about your parents. They loved this nation even though there were laws preventing them from getting together. When they were loving, there were laws in this country that would've prevented you from marrying your husband. It wasn't that long ago, it was the last generation. They didn't stop loving this country even though this country didn't love them back.
What were the words of your heroes and mine? What did Constance Baker Motley do? This country that she saw insult and injuries, when she came out of law school, law firms wouldn't even hire her because she was a woman. Did she become bitter? Did she try to create a revolution? No, she used the very constitution of this nation. She loved it so much. She wanted America to be America. As Langston Hughes wrote, "O, let America be America again. The land that never has been yet, but yet must be. The land where everyone is free." O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, but I swear this oath, America will be."
Brian Lehrer: Senator Cory Booker, reciting Langston Hughes by heart, ending the five clips of Booker that were a real moment for him at Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's hearing last week. The invitation is on the table for you out of all of that. First of all, whatever this historic nomination means to you, given the history, open mic. 212 433 WNYC. Second, do you, can you love America when it doesn't seem to love you, like Ketanji Brown Jackson and Cory Booker seem to in those last couple of clips? Do you have that knowing look between you and others knowing what you know that outsiders may not? 212 433 WNYC or tweet @BrianLehrer. We'll start with Michael calling from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michael, you're on WNYC. Thank you so much for calling in.
Michael: Hi, how are you? Good to speak with you. I listen to the show all the time. I'm actually pursuing a PhD in biomedical research. I'm attending the University of Michigan. As I've gone through this trajectory, I've always been one of the few Black people as scientists, at the same time, I always encounter other Black people that are also working in the service capacities.
We always have these exchanges where they express pride to see me there. I also want to convey to them that I feel really fortunate to be in this position and that I want to give back and succeed as a way to represent properly, if that makes sense. I watched the hearings as well, the situation like Cory Booker mentioned as he was talking to Ketanji Brown Jackson, it totally resonated with me.
Brian Lehrer: Michael, thank you. Thank you for that story. Thanks for starting us off. Debbie on Long Island, you're on WNYC. Hi, Debbie.
Debbie: Good morning. I'm a longtime listener, I'm a member. I appreciate your program daily.
Brian Lehrer: Thank you.
Debbie: You're welcome. I took my children to Dallas, Fort Worth. My husband was working there. We went on a family vacation along with him. I went to the Museum of Art, whatever it was there. As we walked in, it was clear that we were the only Black folks in there and evidently, not too many folks do go there, Black folks. One of the security guards came in after about the second or third row and said to me, "We want you to know that we are here and we know you are here. We appreciate all that you're doing and it is so good to see you here."
It went on, I don't know what their policy is, that each time we got to another room, another guard came up and said, "Thank you, we are so glad to see you here." When we got to the café, well, she was more like the bus-person, she was clearing the tables and she came to me and said, "When you came in, we all knew you were here." Evidently, they were on their little walkie-talkies, she said, "We just want you to know how happy we are that you are here."
Brian Lehrer: You could relate.
Debbie: Absolutely, it's all the time we're in museums. In New York City, you don't appreciate it because we have a very diverse population, but you go in other places and it's completely different. Yes, I do love America.
Brian Lehrer: Go ahead, you can talk about that.
Debbie: I'm sorry.
Brian Lehrer: Go ahead. No, I'm sorry. You go.
Debbie: Yes, I definitely love America, particularly when you go someplace else, in other parts of the world and you can appreciate all that we are, limited in some ways, still have endless opportunities in other ways. It really doesn't get any better than this. Maybe Canada, but for the most part, it doesn't get any better than this. We just have to work, as John Lewis says, to make it even better.
Brian Lehrer: I was going to ask, when the security guard or the bus-person comes up to you and says, "We're so glad you're here," what do you say back?
Debbie: I say, "You're welcome and thank you for your service," because in their way, they're making sure that I'm safe. It's a little uncomfortable in some times, particularly in Dallas, evidently, they weren't permitted to talk to folks. Whereas in New York, the security guards say hello and how are you and they're very personable. These folks were not unfriendly, but they seemed to be intimidated at that point. Albeit this was quite some time ago, it was Dallas, it was right after a recent Republican National Convention there, politics and what have you. It lets you know that they see who's coming in to their places of employment and in what capacity, even though people think that [unintelligible 00:18:39] Okay.
Brian Lehrer: Thank you so much. Please call us again. Rita in Brooklyn, you're on WNYC. Hi, Rita.
Rita: Good morning, Brian. I'm a longtime listener, first time caller. Thank you for your service. As a first generation Black American, I am compelled to love this country. It is the country that gave my parents the opportunity to work hard and put three children through college and see them excel. They would not have had that opportunity in any other country in the world. It's unfortunate that as a Black person, we have to continually prove to America that we love it. America is a part of who I am and I will always love this country because it's the only place in the world where if you are willing to work hard and you're willing to ignore insult, you can still get to your highest potential. Thank you.
Brian Lehrer: That's an interesting pairing, if you're willing to work hard and if you're willing to ignore insult, ignore insult. What a thing to have to be central.
Rita: Yes. All right, thank you.
Brian Lehrer: Thank you very much. Thank you so much. Mo in the Bronx, you're on WNYC. Hi, Mo.
Mo: Yes. Good morning. How are you doing? Can you hear me?
Brian Lehrer: Good. I hear you fine. Hi.
Mo: I can add to that conversation we just heard. I went to Arlington cemetery a couple years back and the guard there said thank you to us, my family, because we went to Austin and I asked him about the monuments and he told us where the [inaudible 00:20:33] were all buried at, and many of the places there where they were buried at, but the bigger point called in was about being proud. One of the thing is I'm calling from the Bronx.
Vanessa Gibson is the first African American female Borough president in the Bronx.
Brian Lehrer: That's right, just took office.
Mo: You have Tish James who's the State Attorney General from New York.
Brian Lehrer: Yes, Letitia James.
Mo: We have all these proud moments of females. I think what needs to be done is they need to go into the high schools and say, ask the females-- the females period. This is not just an opportunity for African American females, but this is an opportunity for another female to come on the Supreme Court and do they understand the significance of it.
Brian Lehrer: Mo, thank you so much. Janine in Springfield, Virginia, you're on WNYC. Hi, Janine.
Janine: Hey, Brian, thank you for this conversation. I needed it today, I really did, after what I saw at the Oscars last night and seeing--
Brian Lehrer: That's our next segment, by the way, but go ahead.
Janine: I should have caught on that. Seeing Cory Booker stand up for Judge Jackson, a black man standing up in the face of Tom Cotton, others, and Cruz, how they slaughtered her character. She had to sit there with no emotion where all of us, my father is 89 and we watched it together and we wanted to beat the living daylights out of those white men. We were proud of her for sitting there but we felt her pain and we were screaming at the TV. When Cory Booker came on and I'm someone who's grounded in joy, he came on and gave a sermon. It just gave all of us the strength to remember who we are, because in this country, my ancestors' blood is in the soil of the south.
That's why I lived in New York. Now I have to be in Virginia and I feel the weight of their blood, but that's an investment. That's an investment for me to be free and to live with joy. No white person or any person, but particularly those white and specifically those white men who know our history, they know what they're doing, they are very skilled in white perversity and in extending white dominance to keep money in their pockets, to keep us small and to keep us in service, Black people, because it serves the system that feeds their pockets.
To see Corey Booker and all of the Black folks who are in politics doing their thing and to support one another, it helps with the police violence, it helps with the microaggressions, it helps with all of the racism that we have to deal with. It's like an oxygen boost, it's a B12 boost to continue on because you know what? This is not the only country where a Black person can thrive. I have a lot of friends who have left America and moved to Ghana, who've moved to France, who've moved to England, who've moved to Canada, who've moved to the Barba-- to other countries and are thriving, who've moved to central America.
No, this is not the only country where a Black person can thrive but this is a place where those of us who are as stubborn to say you know what? My ancestors invested in this soil and I refuse in my lifetime to let anybody take what we've earned away from us. That is a nuance that I feel. I appreciate you giving me the chance to say that when we can uplift one another particularly a Black man for a Black woman in that way.
Brian Lehrer: It sounds like a little more complicated relationship for you to loving this country than we heard from some of the previous callers or the way that Booker or Judge Jackson put it.
Janine: Yes, it is, because part of me, I would love to move to Ghana where there's all Black people, but as we will talk about in your next session, when you have all Black people, there's still going to be strife and conflict and how we deal with it, but specifically for me, it's like my ancestors did not work for free for, what, 401 years, in order for me to give up on their investment. I'm not not college educated. I'm an artist. I don't have [unintelligible 00:25:48] degrees, but I grew up in an area where I was the only Black kid in my whole school.
I had to deal with that. I love the fact that we're living in a time where Black kids are growing up in their power where we are building a multigenerational, a multiethnic, all identity community for the future that's grounded in love and joy. I have to do my part to invest in that, so thank you, Brian.
Brian Lehrer: Thank you. Thanks to all of you who called on this segment.
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