How Brett Kavanaugh’s Ranting, Raving Testimony Showed the Stink of White Privilege, Gender Privilege and Class Privilege All at Once
Even if Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s second nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, weren’t being accused of sexual misconduct by at least three different women—even if one of the three hadn’t testified that he attempted to rape her back in 1982—his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, September 27 demonstrated that he should never serve on the High Court. Kavanaugh showed himself to be a naked and unapologetic partisan, insisting that his opponents were seeking “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.” His temperament—angry, combative, overtly contemptuous of the Democratic senators who asked him perfectly legitimate questions—was hardly befitting that of a High Court nominee. And with so many Americans continuing to recover from the agony of the Great Recession, the last thing the U.S. needs is a new Supreme Court justice who wears his class and economic privilege like a badge of honor.
Kavanaugh’s September 27 testimony was not that of someone who knew what it was like to struggle, but of someone who was born on third base and arrogantly boasts about hitting a home run. Trump’s nominee had much to say about his Ivy League education, his upbringing in Washington, DC’s affluent Maryland suburbs and his connection to the elite and the privileged. And he came across as someone who was oblivious to the struggles that others go through in a country as unequal as the United States.
Here are the forms of privilege that were painfully obvious when Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.
Ranting and raving before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh boasted, “I got into Yale Law School. That’s the number-one law school in the country. I had no connections there. I got there by busting my tail in college.” Self-confidence is one thing, but arrogance is another—and an arrogant, classist sense of privilege was evident in Kavanaugh’s testimony. Trump’s nominee had a very comfortable upbringing, attending Georgetown Preparatory School in Bethesda, Maryland as a teenager; yet like so many Republicans, he sees himself as a self-made man and fails to realize that home runs are much easier when one is born on third base.
Further, Kavanaugh conflates money and affluence with character. And he spoke as though sex crimes couldn’t possibly be committed by those who attend Georgetown Prep or Yale—only by the lowly peasants who are unworthy of such institutions.
During his testimony, Kavanaugh admitted that he did his share of hard drinking in the past—and activist Emma Gonzales, one of the survivors of the February 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, saw his testimony as that of a spoiled brat. On September 28, Gonzales posted on Twitter, “Call your senators and tell them to vote no for Kavanaugh. The future of our country deserves more than a privileged white boy who’s spent his whole life over-drinking and can’t answer a simple question without acting more immature about it than a four year old.”
Certainly, the fact that Kavanaugh is a white male who had a cushy upbringing in Washington, DC’s affluent Maryland suburbs doesn’t in and of itself disqualify him from the Supreme Court. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt came from a very privileged background, but he was well aware of his own privilege and aggressively promoted a long list of social and economic programs and policies designed to help Americans who didn’t have his advantages. Kavanaugh, however, cannot see his own privilege, and he is oblivious to the fact that had he grown up in Anacostia—a low-income, predominantly black area of Washington, DC—rather than Bethesda, getting into Yale would have been much more difficult.
Had Kavanaugh been African-American and lost his temper in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he would have been labeled an “angry black man.”
As emotionally painful as Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony was for her, the Palo Alto University psychology professor maintained her composure. Had she lost her temper during her testimony, Ford would have been branded a hysterical female by Kavanaugh’s Republican supporters. And as Jonathan Capehart asserted in a September 28 commentary in the Washington Post, even the indignation that Justice Clarence Thomas expressed during his Senate confirmation hearings in 1991 was a long way from Kavanaugh’s outbursts.
Capehart asserted, “Imagine if Thomas had acted out as Kavanaugh did. Imagine if Christine Blasey Ford had behaved the way Kavanaugh did. You can’t. Thanks to the racism and misogyny tightly woven into our national DNA, both Thomas and Ford knew they couldn’t get away with it and wouldn’t be believed if they had.”