The long overdue Senate confirmation of Loretta Lynch as the first African American woman to serve as United States Attorney General was certainly a milestone worthy of praise and recognition. The unprecedented delay before confirmation while the Republicans in Congress played political football with Ms. Lynch’s appointment by President Barack Obama underscores the impotence of the current President when it comes to achieving his policy, goals and objectives. Although the appointment and final confirmation of Ms. Lynch is certainly a testament to her experience and qualifications in a distinguished legal career, I question whether she is the right choice at this most critical time in our nations’ history for African American civil and judicial rights.
I’m sure there are those who will argue that any time is the right time for such an historic appointment, based on the opportunity presented to place a black woman in such a high profile and impactful position. For President Obama especially, it provided the chance to buttress his legacy in the area of minority appointees by getting two for one, a black and a female. This follows the national trend of election and appointments of black women to state and national office, which gives a false sense of progress in the area of racial equality and diversity. As black women are increasingly tabbed for various positions and appointments, black men are increasingly passed over in favor of the fairer sex. Although history will reflect that Mr. Obama appointed two African Americans as Attorneys General, his overall record of African American appointments is disappointing at best. I suggest that Ms. Lynch’s appointment to fill the unexpired term of Eric Holder, who resigned under fire, is simply window dressing for the sake of appearances. All smoke and no fire.
The long and drawn out Senate confirmation hearings for Ms. Lynch were insightful on a number of fronts. The Senate hearings provided the ultimate prime time opportunity for the lily white august body to send two messages. One to President Obama and one to Ms. Lynch. The message to Mr. Obama has been consistent since he took office. Although he may be the elected President, Congress and ultimately the Senate are the real power brokers that run this country. Consequently, Obama’s agenda and Presidential objectives have been thwarted at every turn. Even now during the lame duck period of his Presidency, there is no sign of let up. Mr. Obama will leave office the same way he came in; the most disrespected and reviled President in United States history. Mr. Obama’s extreme disfavor results not so much from of his policies, which largely mirror those of the Presidents before him, but because of his race. Unfortunately like most politicians, he marches in lock step behind the fickle and changing currents of public opinion, seemingly devoid of personal conviction. President or not, Congress has never let Mr. Obama forget that above all else, he is still a Negro in a land built upon the bed rock principles of racism and white supremacy.
The message to Ms. Lynch was similarly colored with subliminal and sometimes overt references to her “place” as a “little colored girl” in a land of rich and powerful white men who have controlled the seats of power and influence from this country’s inception. The Senate hearings simply provided a platform for the ruling class to shamelessly assert their superior positions of wealth, power and influence at the expense of the dignity and self-respect of then nominee Loretta Lynch. This show of force is routinely demonstrated when the appointees are African American, notwithstanding the elected or appointed positions’ status of presumed power, held temporarily in trust by minority office holders. The Office of Attorney General is a powerful position, but only in the hands of a person who can wield the resources of the office unbowed and unafraid. Eric Holder did a good job of standing up to those powerful influences that tried to discredit and marginalize him because of his race. Although he ultimately was run out of office, he stood proud and would not be intimidated by the power brokers that run this country. He refused to be treated like a “nigger,” and for this he paid a heavy political price. Although the writers of American history will judge him harshly, Eric Holder deserves our respect and gratitude. Holders’ willingness to taking unpopular stands with white folk for the protection and interest of black folk, will not likely be replicated by Lynch or anyone else subject to congressional approval. Consequently, Mr. Holder’s departure left some big shoes to fill.
I question whether the newly appointed Attorney General is up to the task for a number of reasons. First and foremost, after her appointment Ms. Lynch seemed timid and reticent in responding to the oppressive conditions that spawned the Baltimore riots. Despite clear evidence demonstrating a practice and policy of racial profiling and targeting by law enforcement, she chose to strike a conciliatory tone by becoming an apologist for the police department. Although a justice department investigation was initiated, to date there has been little in the way of departmental reform as a result. Instead, recent media reports have focused on law enforcement’s expanding efforts to bring the looters and arsonists to justice. I agree that those responsible for destroying the community should be held accountable, but we must also deal with the systemic conditions that spawned the lawlessness. (See Baltimore and Beyond) Otherwise the powder kegs of Ferguson, Baltimore and other cities will continue to ignite. Dismantling the structural layers of racial inequality and disparity in law enforcement and municipal government is the responsibility of the Justice Department, and it will take strong decisive leadership to make an impact.
With respect to the racially motivated church massacre in Charleston, S.C., I have yet to hear the Attorney General condemn it in the strongest possible terms. Although Reuter’s news agency reported that the matter “is being investigated by the Justice Department as a possible case of domestic terrorism,” another investigation is not what’s needed. Eyewitness accounts and the killer’s own manifesto confirm the obvious. The church murders were motivated and perpetrated by home grown white supremacist ideologues who believe as Dylann Roof declared that black people “are raping our women and taking over the country.” A terrorist is a terrorist whether he murders in the name of Al Qaeda or white supremacy. Surely Roof and his fellow demagogues fall under any reasonable interpretation or definition of the term. Consequently, the Attorney General should have been the first to call the murderous acts and the hate groups who spawned them terrorists, with the full weight of the Justice Department behind the acknowledgement. I question whether Loretta Lynch has the stomach and gravitas, to stand up to the rich white and powerful special interests that pull Obama’s strings, and run this country. These critical times for African Americans demand leadership that is unafraid to act and speak truth to power. As the face and leader of the Justice Department, Ms. Lynch has a golden opportunity to act boldly and decisively in the interest of African Americans. As recent events in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York and Charleston continue to show us, blacks are still oppressed by a justice system that still operates under two tiers of justice. In America there has always been one system of justice for black people and another for white. In our unending quest for equality, there is clearly so much work yet to be done. My question is whether Loretta Lynch is up to the task.
Editor’s note: Gerald Torrence is a lawyer, educator, writer, social and political activist, and motivational speaker living in Atlanta. You can find more insightful opinions from TheTruthTeller at the-truth-teller.com. You can follow Gerald on Twitter @tttspokentruth.