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Elie Mystal’s Cruelty and Amy Coney Barrett’s Grace

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett attends her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, October 12, 2020. (Patrick Semansky/Pool via Reuters)

Amy Coney Barrett delivered her opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee early this afternoon. Here’s what Barrett had to say about her seven children, two of whom — Vivian and John Peter — she and her husband adopted from Haiti:

Jesse and I are parents to seven wonderful children. Emma is a sophomore in college who just might follow her parents into a career in the law. Vivian came to us from Haiti. When she arrived, she was so weak that we were told she might never walk or talk normally. She now deadlifts as much as the male athletes at our gym, and I assure you that she has no trouble talking. Tess is 16, and while she shares her parents’ love for the liberal arts, she also has a math gene that seems to have skipped her parents’ generation. John Peter joined us shortly after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and Jesse, who brought him home, still describes the shock on JP’s face when he got off the plane in wintertime Chicago. Once that shock wore off, JP assumed the happy-go-lucky attitude that is still his signature trait. Liam is smart, strong, and kind, and to our delight, he still loves watching movies with Mom and Dad. Ten-year-old Juliet is already pursuing her goal of becoming an author by writing multiple essays and short stories, including one she recently submitted for publication. And our youngest — Benjamin, who has Down syndrome — is the unanimous favorite of the family.

Elie Mystal, a justice correspondent at The Nation, reacted to this loving description by asking: “Did anybody else notice that Amy Coney Barrett told us her white children have intellectual goals while her black children can… deadlift? Or was that just me?”

In an age of political incivility such as ours, it takes quite a lot to shock the conscience of political observers. But Mystal’s attempt to imply she would lower expectations for her kids based on skin color (when she was clearly trying to highlight Vivian’s robust health now compared with her sickly state when she was adopted) marks a new low. That he does so not because he thinks it will derail her nomination — he knows it won’t — but for likes and retweets speaks to his own vanity, racial insensitivity, and cruelty. (He continued to delight in the attention, later tweeting: “Conservatives seem pretty angry that I challenged their white savior complex. I expect that they’re all honoring ‘Columbus Day’ by watching the Last of the Mohicans tonight.”)

Only a fanatic could draw the conclusion that Mystal did from Barrett’s statement. Only a woman with the uncommon talent, grace, and faith of Amy Coney Barrett could find it in her heart to forgive Mystal.

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