Tags: Letter Writing Sunday • Politics • Race
You may have heard that the man who may become our next Attorney General was nominated to a Federal Judgeship before but was rejected because of his racist remarks. From Fortune:
During that hearing, Sessions was criticized for joking in the presence of a Civil Rights Division attorney that the Ku Klux Klan was “OK” until he learned they smoked marijuana. He was also said to have called a black assistant U.S. attorney “boy” and the NAACP “un-American” and “communist-inspired.”
This happened in 1986, when I was a toddler. When I heard that Jeff Sessions may become AG, I cringed because I remembered something much more recent. In 2009 when President Obama appointed Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, the questions Jeff Sessions asked her during her confirmation hearings were racist, absurd and illogical. He was obsessed with his own misinterpretation of her famous “wise Latina” quotation:
“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,””
And he battered her about it for a long time. Here’s just a sample of the back and forth:
SOTOMAYOR: I think if my speech is heard outside of the minute and a half that YouTube presents and its full context examined, that it is very clear that I was talking about the policy ramifications of precedent and never talking about appellate judges or courts making the policy that Congress makes.
SESSIONS: Judge, I would just say, I don’t think it’s that clear. I looked at that on tape several times, and I think a person could reasonably believe it meant more than that. But yesterday you spoke about your approach to rendering opinions and said, quote, “I seek to strengthen both the rule of law and faith in the impartiality of the justice system,” and I would agree. But you have previously said this: “I am willing to accept that we who judge must not deny differences resulting from experiences and heritage, but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.” So first, I’d like to know, do you think there’s any circumstance in which a judge should allow their prejudices to impact their decision-making?
SOTOMAYOR: Never their prejudices. I was talking about the very important goal of the justice system is to ensure that the personal biases and prejudices of a judge do not influence the outcome of a case. What I was talking about was the obligation of judges to examine what they’re feeling as they’re adjudicating a case and to ensure that that’s not influencing the outcome. Life experiences have to influence you. We’re not robots to listen to evidence and don’t have feelings. We have to recognize those feelings and put them aside. That’s what my speech was saying…
SESSIONS: Well, Judge …
SOTOMAYOR: … because that’s our job.
SESSIONS: But the statement was, “I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage, but continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.” That’s exactly opposite of what you’re saying, is it not?
SOTOMAYOR: I don’t believe so, Senator, because all I was saying is, because we have feelings and different experiences, we can be led to believe that our experiences are appropriate. We have to be open- minded to accept that they may not be, and that we have to judge always that we’re not letting those things determine the outcome. But there are situations in which some experiences are important in the process of judging, because the law asks us to use those experiences.
SESSIONS: Well, I understand that, but let me just follow up that you say in your statement that you want to do what you can to increase the faith and the impartiality of our system, but isn’t it true this statement suggests that you accept that there may be sympathies, prejudices and opinions that legitimately can influence a judge’s decision? And how can that further faith in the impartiality of the system?
SOTOMAYOR: I think the system is strengthened when judges don’t assume they’re impartial, but when judges test themselves to identify when their emotions are driving a result, or their experience are driving a result and the law is not.
SESSIONS: I agree with that.
But he didn’t really because it went on for another eight pages. [You can read the whole thing here. Start on page 12.] What Senator Sessions was getting at is that Latina women have a race and a gender, but white men do not. That (straight) white (christian) men are the default and do not have a sexuality or a religion that can influence their worldview – but everyone else does.
So what I would like to see from my Senator, Chuck Schumer, the new Senate Minority Leader and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is that he and other Democrats take each of his outrageously racist statements and make him spend an hour or more defending them. If he could question Justice Sotomayor for simply stating that people of different genders and ethnicities have different viewpoints, let’s see what we can do with “The KKK was ok until I heard they get stoned” and “The NAACP is un-American.*” Seriously. Beat the dead horse until it putrefies. Make him sit there for eleven fucking hours like we spent on Benghazi.
And then don’t vote for him.
Here’s the letter I’m sending to Senator Schumer. You should contact your representatives too, especially if you have a senator on the Judiciary Committee.
Dear Senator Schumer,
I am writing to ask you to oppose the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the United States. His racist remarks make him unfit for office.
I would also appreciate it if you pressed him to explain what he meant by those remarks during the confirmation hearings.
*The state of Alabama actually banned the NAACP in 1956. Perhaps Senator Sessions would like to defend that action?