Senate poised to verify Kristen Clarke as first Black lady to steer DOJ civil rights division

WILMINGTON, DE January 7, 2021: Kristen Clarke speaks during the announcement of the candidates for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President of the Justice Department-Elect Kamala Harris to the Queen in Wilmington, DE on January 7, 2021. Merrick Garland, Attorney General, Lisa Monaco as Assistant Attorney General, Vanita Gupta as Assistant Attorney General, and Kristen Clarke as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Department. (Photo by Demetrius Freeman / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

By Christina Carrega

(CNN) – Democrats stand ready to endorse Kristen Clarke as the first black woman to head the Department of Justice’s civil rights division on Tuesday, a historic move that would come on the anniversary of George Floyd’s assassination – and after a critical Republican campaign over their stance on the police.

If this is confirmed, she will break down barriers in a department established in 1957.

Clarke is a first generation American whose parents immigrated from Jamaica, West Indies. He holds degrees from Harvard University and Columbia University School of Law.

Her legal career began with the Department of Justice, which has allowed her to travel across the country in communities like Tensas Parish, Louisiana and Clarksdale, Mississippi, she said at her confirmation hearing in April.

“Our nation is a healthier place when we respect the rights of all communities. In every role I have held, I have worked for and with people of all origins – regardless of race, national origin, religion or disability status, “wrote Clarke. “I have listened carefully to all sides of the debate, regardless of political affiliation. There is no substitute for listening and learning in this work and I promise you that I will put that into the role if it is validated. “

She has served as the president of the nonprofit advocacy committee, which focuses on social justice, for the past five years.

After their nomination, Republicans reappeared in controversial moments that date back to their college years at Harvard. There she co-authored an article comparing the genetics of blacks and whites and headed the Harvard Black Students’ Association where she was an anti-Semitic author for a speech.

Clarke faced both situations over 25 years ago, apologizing for giving the author a platform, and after the article was published, stated that she did not share these views. After right-wing news agencies surfaced the article again to denounce her nomination, she met with several Jewish organizations and repeated to the Union of Reformed Judaism that “she was wrong in her decisions.”

“Kristen not only has the skills but also the temperament to handle all of this. She just let it slip off. This is someone who received hate mail before the nomination for suing the Proud Boys before the uprising, ”Damon Hewitt, executive director and acting president of the Civil Rights Lawyers’ Committee, told CNN.

After Clarke interned with the Justice Department in 1999, she turned down a position in a private law firm to work in the public sector, Hewitt said. During her 20-year career at Clarke, she served three times on federal civil rights teams and was an assistant to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund – while raising her son.

Controversial confirmation hearing

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Mitch McConnell have refused to support Clarke’s nomination, citing their views on police reform.

“This is not the right candidate for a crucial post at a crucial time,” McConnell said on Monday, referring to the recent surge in violent crime in the US.

Cruz used a recent firearms hearing to criticize both Clark and Vanita Gupta, who was re-elected as assistant attorney general in April – the first black woman to hold the No. 3 position in the Justice Department – and declared her as “radicals” designated.

Hawley told CNN last week that he agreed with Cruz, saying “the pattern of nominees in this administration has a very radical left-wing background.”

Clarke defended her earlier testimony at her confirmation hearing last month, saying she refused to defuse the police and would rather fund other social programs.

“I don’t support defusing the police,” she said at the hearing on a question from Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin. “I support the search for strategies to ensure law enforcement agencies can do their jobs more safely and effectively, and to allocate resources to emotional health care and other areas of severely inadequate resources.”

Clarke’s followers said they believe that because of her race, she faces a more difficult path to validation.

“I think it’s a race, there is no other way to describe it,” NAACP president Derrick Johnson told CNN.

“Nobody is treated the way they are treated at this moment,” added Johnson. “If you compare that to the dates the previous government put in and how underqualified they were for the positions, especially for lifelong appointments at the Bundesbank, one cannot draw any other conclusion than [that] it is racially motivated. “

Speaking to CNN, Hawley denied that race played a role in his objections, saying he found the proposal “ridiculous and offensive”.

Cruz’s office said the Texas Republican objection was due to Clarke’s positions.

“Kristen Clarke’s brazen contempt for law enforcement – evidenced by her repeated calls to disappoint the police and her troubling history of advocacy for brutal police murderers – should be disqualified from serving as assistant attorney general for the civil rights division,” Cruz said in a Statement to CNN.

The CNN Wire
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