This is my open letter to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee urging a NO vote on Sessions for Attorney General.
I am a civil rights attorney, a television legal analyst, and the founder and president of Special Needs Network, Inc., an organization that represents millions of special needs families across California. I’m writing to add my name to the myriad of civil rights groups and prominent individuals, including more than 1400 distinguished law professors from around the country, who have joined together to oppose the nomination of Jeff Sessions for U.S. Attorney General.
As an African American woman who watched my elders shed blood and sacrifice their lives for civil rights, I can’t think of a worst choice to defend those rights than Jeff Sessions.
Proof of Session’s hostility toward minorities first came to light in 1986, when President Reagan nominated the then U.S. attorney for a federal judgeship. During the confirmation process, it was revealed that in the mid-1980s Sessions had called the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act—which protects the rights of black voters—an “intrusive piece of legislation.” And in1985, in response to record black voter turnout during an election in South Alabama, Sessions brought charges against three civil rights leaders for alleged voter fraud. A jury of seven blacks and five whites subsequently acquitted all three defendants in less than three hours, and civil rights groups charged that the true aim of Session’s prosecution was to intimidate black voters.
But the final nail in Session’s confirmation coffin came from the mouths of attorneys who worked with him. When interviewed, they disclosed that he once referred to a black attorney as “boy,” and suggested a white attorney was a traitor to his race for representing black clients. When confronted with his record, an embarrassed Sessions was forced to admit that he called the American Civil Liberties Union and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People “un-American” for “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them,” and that he said his only problem with the Ku Klux Klan was the extremist group’s marijuana use.
As a U.S. Senator, Sessions has proven he’s willing to oppose the rights of anyone he sees as a threat to white male privilege, including women, the disabled, and members of LBGTQ community. Sessions has used his senate seat to vote against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
Sessions has even opposed the interests of special needs children, an issue that’s near and dear to my heart. In a 2000 Senate floor speech, Sessions complained about The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law that requires schools to serve the educational needs of eligible students with disabilities. “Special treatment for certain children, and that are a big factor in accelerating the decline in civility and discipline in classrooms all over America,” said Sessions.
In 1986, Sessions tried to defend himself against accusations of racism by declaring “I am not the Jeff Sessions my detractors have tried to create.” In recent interviews, Sessions has attempted to soften and moderate his image, claiming he understands “the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African American brothers and sisters.” But there’s been nothing in his senate record of the past 31 years that suggests he’s evolved on Civil Rights, or any of the issues that are important to African Americans, disabled children and other minorities.
Contrary to his words, we have every reason to believe that a Justice Department run by Jeff Session would make a U-turn away from the priorities established by predecessors Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, who strongly protected civil rights and held police departments accountable for their actions in minority communities. Under Jeff Sessions, we can expect a Justice Department that’s looks to “make America great again” by turning back the clock on Civil rights, criminal justice reform, the expansion of rights for gays and lesbians, immigration reform, embryonic stem cell research and President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. After eight years of progressive leadership, we don’t need a return to the glory days of Jeff Session’s old south. We don’t need a trip down memory lane when black voters were disenfranchised, and we certainly don’t need, nor can we afford, a Justice Department run by Jeff Sessions.
Respectfully, and on behalf of millions of families across California, I request that you vote no and refuse to confirm Jeff Sessions to the highest law enforcement post in our country.
Areva Martin is America's Advocate. She is a TV talk show host and commentator on compelling legal, political, women’s, children’s and celebrity issues. A Los Angeles based civil rights attorney and Founder of the Special Needs Network, Areva is a nationally recognized and outspoken autism advocate and attorney fighting for the rights of underserved communities.