Jeff Sessions is joining with several of his Senate Judiciary Committee colleagues to demand further investigation of the fake-scandal around the New Black Panther Party. I’ve heard some suggest that it’s hypocritical for Sessions to be leading this charge when he showed so little interest in the overall subject of the George W Bush administration’s politicization of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. I beg to differ. Sessions has, throughout his career, been a loud and outspoken defender of white interests. Consider Sarah Wildman’s reminder of his history:
The tip of the problem was a 1984 case that came to be known as the “Marion 3” – Sessions’s prosecution of three civil rights workers over what he perceived as voting fraud. As Lani Guinier lays out in her book Lift Every Voice, before 1965 there were “virtually no blacks registered to vote in the 10 western Black Belt counties of Albama”.
But by the 1980s that had started to change. Through the massive get-out-the-vote efforts of three leaders – including a former aid to Martin Luther King – black voter turnout began to creep toward 80%, and a handful of black legislators were elected. That’s where Sessions stepped in, charging three voting rights organisers with voter fraud. All three were quickly acquitted. Sessions’s choice to focus on their efforts looked a lot less like good governance and a lot more like voter intimidation.
Career Justice Department employee J Gerald Hebert testified under oath that Sessions told him the NAACP was an “un-American,” and “Communist-inspired” organization that, in collusion with the also un-American and Communist-inspired ACLU, managed “forced civil rights down the throats of people.” He thought the Voting Rights Act was unduly “intrusive” and a a black former assistant US attorney named Thomas Figures testified that Sessions called him “boy” and joked to him that he liked the Ku Klux Klan until he found out that some of its members smoked pot.