Kristen Clarke, Joe Biden’s candidate to head the Justice Department’s civil rights section, faced several rounds of Republican interrogation ahead of her Senate confirmation, as GOP lawmakers investigated her past statements on police violence and whether she supports “thorough” police.
Once, Republican Senator John Cornyn asked Ms. Clarke if she actually believed that “African Americans are genetically superior to Caucasians” in response to a satirical column criticizing a controversial book on racial theory and genetics.
“Maybe it’s a misprint – maybe you can explain it to me,” he asked. “You seem to be arguing that African Americans were genetically superior to Caucasians. Is that correct? “
“No, senator,” she said. “I think you’re referring to an op-editor I wrote about when I was 19 years old The Theory of Bell Curve, a racist book that equated DNA with genetics and race. As a Black student at Harvard [University] at the time we were offending this book. “
She said the column was meant to “hold a mirror – put one racist theory next to another, to challenge people why we didn’t want to completely reject the racist theory that defined Bell Curve’s book.”
“So this was satire?” Mr. Cornyn replied.
Mrs. Clarke, if confirmed for the role, would be the first woman and the first black woman to lead the division since its inception in 1957.
Her appointment follows an increase in hate crimes, threats to voting rights and federal police warnings about the rise of racist violence, white supremacism and domestic terrorist conspiracies – all against a backdrop of the GOP’s persistent cultural wars.
Ms. Clarke – a longtime civil rights advocate – has emerged as a frequent critic of the Trump administration as head of the civil rights advocacy committee, which prosecuted the former president for voting rights, immigration, and use of force against protesters. outside the White House, and changes to the U.S. census.
Defending results after the 2020 presidential election, which the former president tried to overthrow with the false story of a “stolen” election, she was repeatedly threatened with racist attacks by her supporters.
In 2019, she won a lawsuit against a neo-Nazi who incited a “troll storm” against the first black student president of American University.
Right-wing lawmakers fear her nomination to the Justice Department, along with former civil rights lawyer Vanita Gupta, whose appointment is also awaiting Senate confirmation, will overthrow U.S. police and strengthen protections of civil rights and voters Republicans across the U.S. aimed to undo.
But while the recent police killing of another unarmed black American is reviving a nationwide debate about the future of policing, Ms. Clarke told lawmakers that racial equality will remain a top priority in her agency.
In her opening statement, she said she looks to her 16-year-old son to assert his commitment “to the promise to work every day to build a world of equal opportunities for all.”
“A world where no 16-year-old is the target of hate speech,” she said. “A world where no young man is racially profiled. I dream of a world that values his mind, his heart … and doesn’t push him aside because of the color of his skin. I dream about it for every child in the United States. “
Republicans in the Senate on Wednesday sought to undermine her credibility, pointing to her statements around debates about “disapproval of the police,” including an op-ed in which she pleaded for reallocation of funding.
Republicans Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz attacked her for News week op-ed titled “I prosecuted police killings. Repay the police – but be strategic.”
She said the headline did not accurately reflect what she had written. In the opinion, she said she recommends “funding police operations that have made African Americans more vulnerable to police violence and have contributed to mass incarceration by investing more in programs and policies that address critical community needs.”
The civil rights department of the Ministry of Justice does not dictate police budgets.
After Democratic Senator Chris Coons asked if police financial decisions depend on her, she said, “If I could put my thumb on the scale, it would be on the side of more resources.”
Senator Cotton has also repeatedly asked if she believes police officers who killed black Americans in several high-profile cases were “justified” in their response, seeking an answer “yes or no.”
Ms Clarke said there was “generally a greater need for police accountability” and that “there is a bipartisan agreement on this matter” before Mr Cotton stopped her.
After President Dick Durbin told Mr. Cotton to allow Mrs. Clarke to respond, Mr. Cotton broke down, saying, “Can you stop your habit of interrupting me several times?”
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