A Letter Written By Coretta Scott King Reminds Us Why Jeff Sessions Is Unfit To Be Attorney General
In his time as a U.S. Attorney in Alabama more than 30 years ago, Jeff Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, used every available opportunity to harass African-American voters. In effect, he was doing “what the local sheriffs accomplished with clubs and cattle prods,” wrote Coretta Scott King, in a letter, Slate reports.
King’s letter warned us about Sessions more than 30 years ago
The letter, written in 1986 to the Senate Judiciary Committee was previously unpublished. But on Tuesday, it was released by The Washington Post, just as Sessions began the first day of confirmation hearings. When King wrote the letter, Sessions was being considered for a federal judgeship. But the Senate found reasons not to confirm him. Too many people were troubled by his habit of taking actions that had profoundly racist outcomes.
And the committee members may have been influenced by King’s letter, in which she wrote that elevating Sessions to the judgeship would “Irreparably damage the work of my husband.”
“Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters,” she wrote in a nine-page testimony, in lieu of appearing in person.
But the focal point of her letter is Sessions’ prosecution of three black community organizers who were working in Alabama to register black voters. He came down on them harshly, bringing voter fraud charges against them. In her letter, King writes, he ignored allegations that white activists were doing the very same absentee-ballot tactics to help get out the vote.
“The investigations into the absentee voting process were conducted only in the Black Belt counties where blacks had finally achieved political power in local government,” King wrote. “Whites had been using the absentee process to their advantage for years, without incident. Then, when blacks, realizing its strength, began to use it with success, criminal investigations were begun.”
And the investigations terrorized elderly blacks, she noted
“Many elderly blacks were visited multiple times by the FBI who then hauled them over 180 miles by bus to a grand jury in Mobile when they could more easily have testified at a grand jury 20 miles away in Selma. These voters, and others, have announced they are now never going to vote again.”
As things stand, the chair of the Judiciary Committee is the only person who could legally release King’s written testimony into the public record. And in 1986, that chairman was the notoriously racist Strom Thurmond. And of course, he refused to make King’s letter public. Then the current chair, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, did the exact same thing, because he thinks Sessions is “very honorable and a man of integrity.”
Related: BREAKING: Protest Erupts Sessions’ Confirmation Hearing: ‘You Can’t Arrest Me! I’m White!’ (VIDEO)
But intimidating black voting rights activists isn’t the only thing Sessions has done. Slate notes this man has fought hard to keep black judges off the federal bench. And as if that wasn’t enough, he conducted a cruel war on drugs, imprisoning hundreds of thousands of men of color while white addicts walked free. This is a man who, as Alabama’s attorney general, did horrible damage to black communities, and King’s letter reminds us about how government offices give these people power to use against the disenfranchised and the vulnerable.
“Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts,” King wrote. “I believe his confirmation would have a devastating effect on not only the judicial system in Alabama, but also on the progress we have made toward fulfilling my husband’s dream.”
This is a man who called a black attorney “boy.” This is a man who suggested a white attorney who had black clients was a “race traitor.” This is a man who joked that his only problem with the Ku Klux Klan was that they used drugs, The Huffington Post reports. He has called civil rights organizations “un-American,” for “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them.”
He also opposed voting rights protections, and has long fought the Voting Rights Act, which helped the federal government keep a close watch on elections in states with racist histories, Vox reports. But Sessions considered the act a “piece of intrusive legislation.” When the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down parts of the law, Sessions claimed that Shelby County, where the Supreme Court challenge originated, “has never had a history of denying voters and certainly not now.” But as this article in Bloomberg notes, that’s patently not true. And Shelby County is a mere hair’s breadth away from where four little girls were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan when their church was bombed in the early 1960s.
What does all this tell us about Jefferson Beauregard Sessions? What does this tell us about the man who nominated him in the first place? It tells us that for far too many racists in high positions of power, that black lives don’t matter.
Watch the video below to find out what Sessions has done to innocent people.
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