Kristen Clarke, a longtime voting rights advocate, is well on her way to becoming the first woman and the first woman of color to lead the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division since it was created in 1957. “The U.S. Senate has voted 50-48 to advance the nomination of @KristenClarkeJD to serve as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights,” the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund tweeted on Tuesday. “The next step is a confirmation vote by the Senate.”
And with Democratic control in the upper chamber of Congress (and the lower too, for that matter), there’s little Republicans can do to block Clarke’s confirmation. Still, that hasn’t stopped them from trying. Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted on Tuesday: “Democrats discharging Kristen Clarke’s troubled nomination from the Judiciary Committee is a grave error. As I’ve said repeatedly, she is a radical extremist with a laundry list of concerning issues plaguing her nomination that go far beyond her support for defunding the police.” That laundry list has all of two items on it, one based on Republicans’ inability to detect satire and another stemming from a misattributed quote.
Cruz and other Republicans have been circulating a quote from writer Amiri Baraka and attributing it to Clarke simply because she forwarded an email from Baraka in 1999. In the email, Baraka called police the Ku Klux Klan, which by the way is hardly a radical comparison to anyone with a more in-depth understanding of Black history. But accuracy of the comparison notwithstanding, Clarke didn’t make it.
Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee called Cruz out for his deception in a Twitter thread on May 13. “Senator, this letter clearly shows the quote you’ve attributed to Kristen Clarke is not hers,” they tweeted in the thread. “In this email, she’s transmitting a submitted poem as part of her part-time student job’s administrative responsibilities. This Committee honors debate but will NOT stand for deception.”
Another unfortunate senator from Texas tried to dabble in deception last month during Clarke’s confirmation hearing. Sen. John Cornyn asked if while a student at Harvard University she “argued that African Americans were genetically superior to ah [sic] Caucasians.”
Clarke responded: “No senator, I believe you’re referring to an op-ed that I wrote at the age of 19 about the Bell Curve Theory, a racist book that equated DNA with genetics and race. As a Black student at Harvard at that time we took grave offense to this book. It was co-authored by a Harvard professor. (…) And this op-ed opened with a satirical reference to the statement that you just noted.”
”What I was seeking to do is hold up a mirror,” Clarke added, “and put one racist theory alongside another to challenge people as to why we were unwilling to wholly reject the racist theory that defined the Bell Curve book.”
So basically Clarke has had the moral grounding that makes her especially fit for the Department of Justice gig at least since she was a student at Harvard. I’m sure that wasn’t the point Cornyn was trying to make, but that’s exactly the one his gotcha question allowed Clarke to underscore.
In Sen. Mazie Hirono’s words from a tweet last Thursday, “Republicans are smearing Kristen Clarke because they’re afraid she’ll actually enforce the civil rights laws.”
Deval Patrick, the first Black governor of Massachusetts and assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division under former President Bill Clinton, said in an op-ed for The Hill that Clarke’s nomination “should be a no-brainer — presuming you respect the mission of the division.”
“Clarke has made a career of just such acts of patriotism. She has handled a wide variety of civil rights cases and achieved meaningful results, mastering the substance of civil rights law,” Patrick wrote. “Significantly, she has also approached the work as a problem solver, firm in her support of her clients and cause, but able to listen to and actually hear her adversaries.” She has earned the support of “civil rights advocates and police organizations, underrepresented minorities and business leaders,” Patrick pointed out. “Let that sink in,” he wrote. “At a moment when hyper-partisan division poisons nearly everything in politics, Clarke has earned the respect and support of friend and foe alike.”
Learn more about Clarke’s background from her own opening remarks at her confirmation hearing:
Thank you Senator Gillibrand for your warm words of introduction. Before I begin, Chairman Durbin and Ranking Member Grassley, I would like to take a brief moment to recognize my son Miles, my mother, and my partner, who are with me today. I am grateful for their love and support.
My journey to this hearing room today may not be an obvious one. It started my junior year of high school, when a teacher loaded my classmates and me into a van and drove us to a courthouse in Hartford, Connecticut, to hear arguments in what turned out to be the landmark school desegregation case, Sheff v. O’Neill.
As the daughter of Jamaican immigrants growing up humbly in Starrett City, the nation’s largest public housing complex in Brooklyn, New York, I had never been inside a courtroom before. That moment was a powerful display of the role civil rights lawyers play in our society. I was mesmerized and deeply moved as I watched attorneys argue for more just and equitable educational opportunities.
From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be a civil rights attorney.
I worked hard in public school. My efforts yielded some lucky breaks that included a seat in a program called Prep for Prep that led me to attend a prep school called Choate Rosemary Hall — and that trajectory-changing program is why I ended up in that van that day headed to that courthouse. Then it led to Harvard and Columbia Law School. I turned down the high-paying corporate law firms to take my dream job — in the Justice Department’s Attorney General’s Honors Program where I served for six years, primarily during the George W. Bush Administration.
As a DOJ attorney I began my legal career traveling across the country to communities like Tensas Parish, Louisiana and Clarksdale, Mississippi. I learned to be a lawyer’s lawyer – to focus on the rule of law and let the facts lead where they may.
When I left DOJ, I carried the words of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall as my guide:
“Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on.”
I’ve tried to do just that at every step of my career, from the voting rights project at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, to the Civil Rights Bureau in the New York State Attorney General’s Office, where I was the state’s top civil rights enforcement officer.
And since 2015, I’ve led the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the nation’s leading civil rights legal organizations. Formed at the request of John F. Kennedy in 1963, the Lawyers’ Committee activated the private bar to help ensure the rule of law during the turbulence of the Civil Rights movement. I have worked with thousands of lawyers at major corporate law firms across the country who bring to bear the resources of their firms to advance people’s rights.
Our nation is a healthier place when we respect the rights of all communities. In every role I’ve held, I have worked with and for people of all backgrounds – regardless of race, national origin, religion, or disability status. I’ve listened deeply to all sides of debates, regardless of political affiliation. There is no substitute to listening and learning in this work, and I pledge to you that I will bring that to the role if confirmed.
I would also bring to my stewardship of the Civil Rights Division the lessons I’ve learned over my 20 years as a civil rights attorney — lessons from the people impacted by my work, lessons from the wise attorneys who have mentored me, and lessons from being a single mother juggling the demands of this work.
But perhaps most important, would be fulfillment of the promise I made to myself as a 16-year old girl in that Connecticut courthouse.
As I look at my own son — now the same age I was when I entered that Connecticut courtroom — I remain committed to the promise of working every day to build a world of equal opportunity for all. A world where no 16-year-old is the target of hateful language. A world where no young man is racially profiled. I dream of a world that values his mind, his heart (and his exceptional soccer skills) — and does not push him aside because of the color of his skin. I dream of that for every child in America.
As the head of the Civil Rights Division, I will bring the same clear-eyed pursuit of justice that has guided me my entire life. I would be honored for you to grant me this humbling opportunity to serve.
From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.