Trump’s pick of Sessions undermines racial progress

We’re past the point of wondering about the direction that Trump plans for our country.

It’s a grim future that threatens our civil rights and liberties by instituting a Muslim registry, and separating immigrant families. That’s why we can’t just watch it happen, we have to answer our leaders’ call to action and fight back.


In two weeks since becoming President-elect, Trump has already caused severe damage to the fabric of our country, just look at the racist violent acts that have been reported, and at the cast of characters he’s picked for staff and cabinet positions in his administration so far: Steve Bannon an alleged white nationalist sympathizer who helped run Breitbart as a top White House aide, and one of the most racist politicians of our time Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee Garland strikes down Trump-era immigration court rule, empowering judges to pause cases MORE, to serve as our nation’s next attorney general. 

Talk about normalizing hate.

Sessions spent his entire career attacking and diminishing the rights of people of color.

He couldn’t get confirmed in 1986 because of his racist comments and actions - calling an African American attorney “boy”, and commenting that he thought the KKK “was O.K. until I found out they smoked pot.” 

It’s hard to argue that someone that has an inherent racial bias against black and brown people can be a fair and just Attorney General who protects our civil rights and liberties.

Let’s not forget Sessions also fought to keep a version of a separate but equal education system in Alabama by entirely underfunding schools that served communities of color.

And if that isn’t enough evidence of bias, look back at recordings from the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2009.

Sotomayor, a strong and dedicated public servant who grew up not too far from the very district I represent in the South Bronx challenged herself to push past the roadblocks in her life as a young Nuyorican (a person of Puerto Rican descent born in America) woman. She is an inspiration to millions of Latinas, and her career serves as testament to what grit and determination can accomplish.

Her story is a lesson for all of us: Do good and stand up for those who don’t have a voice. Her wisdom continues to inspire me even in these dark times.

But to Sessions, Sotomayor was just a “wise Latina” with an agenda. He seemed convinced that her life experiences and her ability to critically articulate and unpack the complexities of race, class and gender in her work would somehow cloud her judgment and hinder the Court’s ability to carry out the laws of our nation in a just and fair manner.

Throughout the confirmation hearing, Sessions would continue finding Sotomayor’s references to race and gender in her speeches to young adults as “troubling.”

Sessions challenged the experience of a woman like me because she spoke her existence into being and had the audacity to think she deserved a seat on the nation’s Supreme Court.

While Sotomayor got confirmed and currently holds a position in the Supreme Court, Sessions could not get confirmed to the federal bench 30 years ago because a Republican controlled Senate saw the writing on the wall.

There is no question or argument about it, Sessions has been on the wrong side of racial progress. He once said a white civil rights attorney was “a disgrace to his race” and who thinks that our leading civil rights organizations, the NAACP and ACLU were “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people.”

Like so many people wondering how to react and process Trump’s staff hires and Attorney General pick, I implore us all to heed Justice Sotomayor’s words just a few days ago: “we can’t afford to give up on pursuing the values that we and others have fought so hard to achieve.”

For those of us who have the privilege, capacity, and safety to speak out, we must stand up for those fearful of how Sessions will try to wipe all of the progress made regarding voting rights, immigration, and all of our precious civil liberties. History will judge us by how we react to Trump and his government.

Today, DREAMers are marching from Trump tower in New York to Trump hotel in D.C. We must follow in their footsteps, join them in action, and follow their lead as we push back against this dangerous administration. There’s a lot of work to do and we have to play a part in this chapter of our nation’s history.

Mr. Trump, make no mistake, this “wise Latina” and millions more are going to fight your confirmation of Senator Sessions and any other racist politicians that you try to appoint, tooth and nail.

You better believe it.

Melissa Mark-Viverito is the New York City Council speaker and co-chair of the Latino Victory Fund, which works to build political power within the Latino community.

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.