An open letter to Judge Amy Coney Barrett:
I have watched closely your confirmation hearings. Since we share many similarities — close in age, both living in the Midwest, both educated women with advanced degrees, both white mothers in multiracial families — I began my viewing hopefully.
I lost that hope quickly when I heard you introduce yourself by describing your children. You spoke of your biological children's intellect, promise and good genes; at the same time you described Vivian and John Peter in terms of the terrible traumas that they had overcome (with your help, of course).
Thank God they had been rescued by you, so that now they could become athletic. Do you understand, Judge Barrett, that this is the very definition of implicit bias, and that sociology classes for years to come will use your introductory words to illustrate just how implicit bias works? That I, too, will use this video in my own church to talk about the downfall of Christianity's "white savior complex," which your words also illustrate?
Then, during another day's hearing, I watched you questioned by Sen. Cory Booker, who asked you to share the work you have done to educate yourself about implicit bias in our justice system — what books and articles you have read to educate yourself. I thought Booker was throwing you a slow lob — an easy question that you would hit out of the park.
Certainly a mother who's been raising Black children for the past 15 years would have done her homework during the adoption process. Certainly a law professor at one of our nation's top law schools would be abreast of the latest statistics on one of our country's most important issues for a judge presiding in this time. Imagine my surprise — my horror, really — when you had not a single book or article to cite. I was speechless. How irresponsibly neglectful of you.
Recuse yourself, Judge Barrett, for you are not qualified. I am not speaking professionally — not asking you to recuse from the court appointment, nor from your bench, nor from your position in academia. I want you to recuse yourself from the role that you might claim as your highest calling — that of being a mother to Vivian and JP.
Recuse yourself until such time as you have educated yourself on both your own biases and savior complex, as well as the role that the justice system will play in exploiting and oppressing your children. Until you do that, you are a negligent parent, and your negligence is endangering your children.
I reach out to you, as one mother to another. As a white mother trying my best to raise a Black son in America in 2020, I have tried to learn everything I can. After 15 years of study, I feel I am just scratching the surface of what I need to learn.
So I implore you: Please educate yourself on this important issue. Do as much research as you can. In the weeks that followed George Floyd's death the New York Times Best Seller's list was packed with books to read — you can start there. All of these books will give you insight into your own bias, and how that bias affects your ability to judge and the effects it could have on our justice system.
Of course, this education won't matter for your confirmation. You will be confirmed to the highest court in the land whether or not you take the time to educate yourself on how our justice system is systemically biased. It might make you a more thoughtful judge, but you will get the seat either way. Do the research anyway.
Because even though it won't matter for the confirmation, it will absolutely matter for the way you parent your children. It will give you greater empathy and understanding of how they move through the world. So please educate yourself on the racial biases that are harming our country — your children's lives depend on it.
Coincidentally, so does the soul of our nation.
Cathy M. Kolwey lives in Norwood Young America.