Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden’s nominee for the Supreme Court, gave an answer during her confirmation hearing on Wednesday that has many questioning her views on racial and religious issues.
“This case involved a small community, a cultural community, of people who believe in vegan lifestyles,” she said.
“They call themselves the African Hebrew Israelites, but it’s not a religious community. It’s a cultural community around healthy living, and they have created a restaurant and a series of restaurants here in the Washington, D.C., area with menus involving really, I’m told, terrific vegan foods.”
KBJ on a Black Hebrew Israelites case:
“This case involved a small community, a cultural community of people who believe in vegan lifestyles. They call themselves African Hebrew Israelites, but it’s not a religious community, it’s a cultural community around healthy living.” pic.twitter.com/PTDMrkZdeS
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) March 23, 2022
This is an unusual way to describe the Black Hebrew Israelites.
Once an obscure sect, the group became more nationally known after the Nick Sandmann incident in 2019.
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Sandmann was the student from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky who was captured on video during the March for Life wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and engaged in what looked like a confrontation with a Native American activist.
Video later emerged showing that a group of Black Hebrew Israelite protesters had initiated the incident by verbally harassing Sandmann and his fellow high school students, according to Vox. Sandmann said in a statement that the students started chanting in response to “drown out the hateful comments that were being shouted at us.”
Founded in 1967 in Chicago, it’s widely acknowledged that the Black Hebrew Israelites are a radical religious sect, not just some “cultural community.” Their foundational belief — that they are the true Jews and descendants of the biblical Hebrews — has led to instances of black supremacy and anti-Semitism.
“The Black Hebrew Israelite (BHI) movement is a fringe religious movement that rejects widely accepted definitions of Judaism and asserts that people of color are the true children of Israel,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.
“They believe that Jewish people are ‘fake Jew’ imposters who will be supplanted by them in the future,” said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, according to CNN. “They also believe that God will make whites, who these groups consider spawns of the devil, into their slaves, forced into eternal servitude.”
Jackson was correct in describing the Black Hebrew Israelites as vegans. But that is hardly their defining trait.
“This would be the equivalent of a GOP judicial candidate referring to a white supremacist group as ‘a cultural community centered on body art,’” David Harsanyi from National Review quipped.
Others on Twitter recognized that Jackson missed the mark in her description of the Black Hebrew Israelites.
If someone focused on a restaurant started by some KKK members, would we be ok with that? Cool cool.
— Faye Hausendorff (@FayeH321) March 23, 2022
The case that Jackson presided over — a property dispute between a Black Hebrew Israelite-run food service and one of its managers — did have to do with the group’s vegan diet, so it makes sense that she would refer to that.
But to stress that the Black Hebrew Israelites are just a cultural community is simply inaccurate.
The Anti-Defamation League has outlined instances of the group and its offshoots engaging in extremism and violence.
The Nation of Yahweh branch, for example, is famous for a string of racially motivated murders in the 1980s. At trial, members testified that the group’s leader preached racial hatred and violence. “Nation of Yahweh members were guided by teachings of both Nation of Islam and BHI ideology that developed into violent Black supremacy,” the ADL reported.
The Sicarii branch is also known for its violent and extremist teachings.
In 2019, men with ties to the Black Hebrew Israelites shot up a cemetery and a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey, USA Today reported.
While not all Black Hebrew Israelites are extremists or black supremacists, it’s clear that veganism is not the group’s primary trait. Jackson’s comments betray either a concerning ignorance of that fact or a willingness to turn a blind eye to a radical sect’s history of racism and violence.
Does that mean that she refuses to see such crimes for what they are if they are committed by a certain race? Does she approve of acts of violence if they fall under the umbrella of “social justice”?
This needs to be clarified before Jackson occupies a seat on the Supreme Court.