U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett responded to a professor’s attacks against her family and the targeting of her two adopted children from Haiti during her confirmation hearings on Tuesday.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., gave her the opportunity to weigh in on comments made by Ibram X. Kendi, whom he described as “some butthead professor at Boston University.”
Kendi took to Twitter on Sept. 26, the day Barrett’s nomination was announced, and referred to Barrett and her husband as “white colonizers” who “‘civilized these savage children in the ‘superior’ ways of White people, using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity.”
In a subsequent tweet, Kendi claimed that “whether this is Barrett or not is not the point,” insisting he was trying to make the point that white people believe that “if they adopt or have a child of color, then they can’t be racist.” Kendi, the author of the book How to be an Anti-Racist, is outspoken in his belief that “there is no such thing as a nonracist.”
Kennedy summarized the implication of Kendi’s tweets as “you’re a racist and that you use your two children as props.” He proceeded to ask the nominee if she used her two Haitian-born children as “props.”
“It was the risk of people saying things like that, which would be so hurtful to my family, that when I told Senator Graham this morning that my husband and I had to really weigh the costs of this, it was saying deeply offensive and hurtful things,” she replied. Barrett described Kendi’s comments as “things that are not only hurtful to me, but are hurtful to my children who are my children, who we love and who we brought home and made part of our family.”
“Accusations like that are cruel,” she concluded. “Yeah, they are,” Kennedy responded. “How low can you go?”
Kennedy explained that he did not want to ask that question when her children were in the room. “I’m sorry you had to go through that,” he told her.
Earlier in the day, Barrett recounted the effect that seeing the death of African American George Floyd in police custody had on her and her adopted children, specifically her adopted daughter Vivian. After explaining that Floyd’s death was “very, very personal for my family,” she recalled how “we wept together in my room” and had a conversation about how “there would be a risk to her brother or the sons she might have one day of that kind of brutality.”
Barrett is not the first public figure nominated by a Republican president to face accusations of using minority children as props. In early 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee held confirmation hearings for then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who then-President-elect Donald Trump nominated to serve as Attorney General. He brought his family with him to his confirmation hearings, including his Asian biological granddaughter, who sat on his lap during part of the hearings.
A writer for MTV received harsh criticism for telling Sessions to “kindly return this Asian baby to the Toys ‘R’ Us you stole her from.” “There is no reason for that child to be in his lap in a hearing other than to send an ‘I’m not racist message,’” he added.