So we’ve all heard the phrase “assuming the worst” of a person or of a situation. Given his history of documented, overt racism, it was certainly easy to assume the worst of our nation’s current Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. After openly using racist slurs, and demonstrating that he cares little for communities of color, Americans would be right to not expect much progress under the law enforcement arm of the Trump Administration.
But then, there are days like today, when Jeff Sessions just gives us a new low all on his own, unprompted.
Here’s what he actually said…
Since our founding, the independent, elected Sheriff has been the People’s Protector who keeps law enforcement close to and accountable to the people through the elective process. The office of Sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American Heritage of Law Enforcement. We must never eroode this historic office.
And here’s coverage of the same clip via C-SPAN for any doubters.
Please feel free to play the clip again, and seek out multiple networks. He did indeed say it. And the sad part about all of this? He’s completely correct. Though you don’t have to tell that to communities of color in this country. Here’s more on that sordid history from Time magazine..
…the U.S. police force is a relatively modern invention, sparked by changing notions of public order, driven in turn by economics and politics, according to Gary Potter, a crime historian at Eastern Kentucky University.
Policing in Colonial America had been very informal, based on a for-profit, privately funded system that employed people part-time. Towns also commonly relied on a “night watch” in which volunteers signed up for a certain day and time, mostly to look out for fellow colonists engaging in prostitution or gambling.
In the South, however, the economics that drove the creation of police forces were centered not on the protection of shipping interests but on the preservation of the slavery system. Some of the primary policing institutions there were the slave patrols tasked with chasing down runaways and preventing slave revolts, Potter says; the first formal slave patrol had been created in the Carolina colonies in 1704. During the Civil War, the military became the primary form of law enforcement in the South, but during Reconstruction, many local sheriffs functioned in a way analogous to the earlier slave patrols, enforcing segregation and the disenfranchisement of freed slaves.
So when Langston Hughes writes in his famous poem “America was never America to me”, that’s a major part of what he’s trying to capture. Even in the 21st century, communities of color still have many well-documented reasons to harbor fear against law enforcement agencies, despite the incredibly diligent work of some police to change and evolve this terrible history, and allow all Americans to feel safe in their communities. The very difficulties and old wounds which Attorney General Sessions seem to be blissfully unaware are the reasons so many American citizens have taken to protest their government in movements like Black Lives Matter, and will continue to do so until citizens are treated equally under the law.
Which clearly ain’t gonna happen as long as Trump and Sessions occupy our nation’s highest law enforcement positions. Instead, we have to suffer with an Attorney General whom uses his platform to perpetuate our nation’s torrid history of racism and violence, and can’t possibly be of help to the real work of policing in today’s complex society.
Will these folks ever learn??