October 21, 2007

Barack Obama Questions Attorney General Nominee

George Bush truly phuqued up the Justice Department over the past six years. The inability of the Justice Department to protect the civil rights of African Americans and others leads to a nation that is rife with examples of hate crimes popping up all over in apparent defiance of authority. As such, it is important that our next president put someone in as Attorney General with a commitment to enhance voting rights, enforce the Voting Rights Act and end racial profiling.

I was pleased to read the contents of the letter that Barack Obama (D-IL) sent to Attorney General-Designate, Judge Michael Mukasey, asking him how he intends to protect the civil rights of all Americans if he is confirmed Attorney General. In recent years, there has been a systematic failure by the Department of Justice to exhibit any significant commitment to upholding civil rights – particularly in the cases of the photo identification requirement for voting in Georgia, the Jena 6 in Louisiana, the death of a young man at a boot camp in Florida, and concerns that Blacks have been steered into high-cost subprime loans.

The text of the letter is below:

Dear Judge Mukasey:

I write to you at a moment in our nation’s history that is fraught with unprecedented legal challenges and constitutional questions – a moment that highlights the extraordinary importance of the position for which you have been nominated. By all accounts, your distinguished legal career reflects a commitment to our Constitution and the rule of law.

Unfortunately, this Administration – and your predecessors as Attorney General – have a poor track record in the area of investigating discrimination against racial minorities, while inexplicably focusing resources on a few, exceptional cases involving white victims. From attempts in Georgia to enact a voter identification requirement to the Jena 6 case in Louisiana to concerns that minorities have been steered into high-cost subprime loans, we have seen a systematic failure by the Department of Justice to exhibit any significant commitment to upholding civil rights.

At such a critical time in our nation’s history, we need an Attorney General determined to protect the rights of all Americans – in particular, those traditionally disadvantaged – and not someone who views his mission as serving as the President’s personal attorney. Since I am not a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will not have the opportunity today to ask you questions about your views on civil rights.

For that reason, I ask that you provide responses to the following questions:

  1. In recent years, the Department of Justice has demonstrated a clear preference for investigating isolated examples of voter fraud, rather than more widespread allegations of disenfranchisement of minority voters. As Attorney General, will you commit to a program of enforcement that is aimed at enhancing, rather than diminishing, the ability of racial and ethnic minorities to vote? Will you commit to applying the Voting Rights Act to challenge voter identification laws such as those attempted in Georgia and other states?

  2. The Department of Justice seems to have weakened its stance on the enforcement of apparent racial profiling cases under 42 U.S.C 14141, which allows for civil lawsuits to be brought by the Department against racial profiling by our nation’s police departments. Will you commit to opening investigations and pursuing lawsuits against police departments that reveal a pattern or practice of police misconduct?

  3. In recent months, our nation’s attention has been focused on the racial strife in Jena, Louisiana, and the disparate treatment of six African American youths. As Attorney General, will you commit the investigative resources of the Civil Rights Division to ensuring the fair treatment and execution of the law in cases such as the Jena 6, as well as the recent acquittal by an all-white jury of eight prison guards accused of killing a young black male at a juvenile detention center in Florida?

  4. Several studies have found that black and Hispanic borrowers were more likely to be steered into high-cost subprime loans than other borrowers, even after controlling for factors such as income, loan size, and property location. Although multiple concerns have been raised in recent years about discrimination in the housing market, the number of housing cases filed by the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section has fallen from 53 in 2001 to 31 in 2006, and cases involving discrimination have fallen by 60%. In 2003, the Justice Department announced that it would no longer file disparate impact cases involving housing discrimination – a sharp break from DOJ’s longstanding and bipartisan policy to aggressively litigate these cases. In light of recent reports of stark racial disparities in the subprime lending market and the sharp drop in housing discrimination enforcement actions, what steps will you take to ensure that the nation's housing discrimination laws are vigorously enforced? Will you commit the Housing and Civil Enforcement Division to investigating whether the practices of the mortgage lending industry violate the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, Fair Housing Act, or other federal antidiscrimination statutes?

  5. In 2002, the Bush Administration placed political appointees in charge of hiring new attorneys in the Civil Rights Division – departing from the longstanding practice of giving this hiring authority to career professionals. Since then, less than half of new hires in the Division’s important Appellate, Employment Litigation, and Voting Sections have had any prior civil rights experience – and less than a quarter have had any prior experience enforcing the nation’s civil rights laws. The others, according to a Boston Globe analysis, “gained their experience either by defending employers against discrimination lawsuits or by fighting against race-conscious policies.” Will you pledge to restore professionalism and end the practice of politicized hires within the Civil Rights Division? What specific steps will you take to reverse these trends in hiring?

  6. What is your opinion of the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act, which I introduced in January 2007 and which recently passed the Senate Judiciary Committee? Do you agree that this legislation is necessary?

I believe that with the proper leadership, the Department of Justice can reclaim its historical leadership role in fighting racial discrimination and ensuring equal protection under the law. I appreciate your attention to my questions, and I look forward to your response. Thank you.

Barack Obama
United States Senator


Yobachi said...

Village, where did you get the info about Pleajhia Mervin's parents writing local editorials: http://electronicvillage.blogspot.com/search/label/Pleajhia%20Mervin

I've quoted from your post what they said, and I'd like to have an original source to back up my quote if I can?

Here's my post: http://www.blackperspective.net/index.php/latest-analysis-on-pleajhia-mervin-case-after-finding-out-that-doc-says-her-wrist-is-not-broken/

Villager said...

Yobachi - I have heard no information from Pleajhia's father. Her mother gave an interview. Do you need the link for the radio interview? It was included in one of my earlier posts on the subject.

Spirited Strider said...

I just discovered your blog and must say that I am impressed! I especially appreciate you sharing Barack's letter because every American should be concerned with these serious civil rights violations, regardless of color. Thank you. I look forward to reading more.

Martin Lindsey. said...

Wow, yet another reason to "paint the White House Black" as the P-Funk family wrote years ago. By the way, your Price-Phister spelling of f'd up is hillarious! I'm just now getting back in my chair after rolling onto the floor. But back to the main thing.

Yeah man, Barak has vision and tact. For my money a candidate doesn't have to comment on every social cause while he's running because that just smacks of pandering and photo-opping to me. I'd rather see situations dealt with substantively and on the record the way he did with this letter.

You know what else? It doesn't even matter if the potential attorney general ever responds to it. You know why? Because it reveals how our future President would approach problems and political issues which is what I really want to know about a candidate.

Man, I'm going to have to go to his web site and give him some campaign money right now.

Another Conflict Theorist said...


I agree with Martin Lindsey. Unfortunately, tact and vision aren't attributes that are celebrated much these days. Especially by those who have come to judge prominent black figures primarily by how willing they are to jump all over any cause that surfaces in the press.

Great post.

Yobachi said...

Villager, I made a mistake. I meant the guard Chris Niemeyer's parents who you quoted in this post

I was wondering what was the source for those words of theirs.

Villager said...

Strider - Thank you for sharing your village voice withus. I hope that you come back often!

Martin - Truth to tell, it is important that all of us that support a presidential candidate ... Obama or others ... should contribute to their campaign. We have to get involved in order to have our voices heard. I appreciate your comments and look forward to seeing your blog more often in the future!

ACT - Thanx for sharing your village voice with us!

Danielle said...

Those were good questions but I these questions provided by reclaimcivilrights.org especially since they speak of racial profiling, worker's discrimination and also the questions site sources directly related to Mukasey's career.

I also wanted to draw attention to some of the dissent against Obama from the black community. Here, and here.

Have you seen this on Russell Simmons, Obama and Kucinich?

Obama lost me when during a debate he said "I don't take no P.A.C. money." I appreciate the use of a double negative in speech but in this case two negatives equals a positive since I checked for myself and found he does take P.A.C. money though not as much as others. I am so sick of politicians lying that he crossed the line for me.

One thing is very evident is we must end this spiraling cycle of racism and classism that we believed was behind us. As I wrote that last line, I realize "we" are only the mainstream this nonsense has continued without the focus of media attention.

These nooses turning up sicken me. Racial profiling and the effects it has on it's victims is destroying potential. Economic policies and free hand corporatism affect those on the lowest rungs of society first, and the majority of those on the bottom are there due to these same policies.

Black Americans have formed this country through their blood, labor, and the numerous contributions of those radical souls that realized throughout suppression of their human dignity that all humans have inherited honor and should be respected as such and shared this realization.

We know of the importance of human value because of the disrespect it has been shown historically by profit power.

Again I thank you for spreading the news about these pertinent issues that we still challenge and fight against. I surely haven't heard a thing about the nooses on my network news.

Much Love


{I am still awaiting news on Se7en's banner, gotta show my solidarity to the village!.}

Villager said...

Danielle - Thank you for your visit. I hadn't seen the questions from the civil rights group ... nor the information from the Black Agenda Report. All the points are well-taken and I appreciate your reaction to the PAC issue re: Obama.

At the end of the day, we realize that we will never appreciate 100% of what any presidential candidate does or says. We have to look for a preponderance of evidence that the person would represent us and our country in a manner that we respect. Right now Obama holds the key for me. However, there is still time before a vote needs to be cast.