Attorney General Jeff Sessions has once again come under fire for what appears to be an incredibly racist statement praising the law enforcement's role in institutionalized racism across the United States.
During his address at the National Sheriffs Association’s winter meeting in Washington, D.C., Sessions went off-script and praised the “Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement,” sparking a massive controversy about the racist nature of his statement.
“I want to thank every sheriff in America. Since our founding, the independently elected sheriff has been the people’s protector, who keeps law enforcement close to and accountable to people through the elected process,” the 71-year-old said. “The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement. We must never erode this historic office.”
Interestingly, Sessions was actually supposed to say: “The sheriff is a critical part of our legal heritage.” However, he decided to celebrate how the sheriff’s position has predominantly belonged to white people instead of people of color.
Although his remarks came off as extremely racist, the Department of Justice issued a statement claiming there was no “nefarious” meaning behind them.
“As most law students learn in the first week of their first year, Anglo-American law — also known as the common law — is a shared legal heritage between England and America,” said DOJ spokesman Ian Prior. “The sheriff is unique to that shared legal heritage. Before reporters sloppily imply nefarious meaning behind the term, we would suggest that they read any number of the Supreme Court opinions that use the term. Or they could simply put 'Anglo-American law' into Google.”
But Sessions didn’t say “Anglo-American law,” did he?
For those unaware, “Anglo-American” cites a European connection and thus implies whiteness. As for the accompanying term “heritage,” well, it is quite frequently used by white supremacists and neo-Nazi to justify their support for Confederate monuments and flags.
As Cato analyst David Kopel noted in The Washington Post, the word “sheriff” combines the Anglo-Saxon words "shire" and "reeve," which means “county” and “guardian” respectively.
However, it would probably be a bit far-reaching to claim that’s what Sessions was trying to say — because it didn’t come across that way. Moreover, it is a little too hard to brush off these remarks, given Sessions’ long history of racism. After all, he is the one who once reportedly said “organizations like the NAACP force civil rights down the throats of people” and “I thought those guys [the Ku Klux Klan] were OK until I learned they smoked pot.”
Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., responded to Sessions’ latest remarks with an excerpt of the letter Coretta Scott King, her mother, wrote in the 1980s to oppose the attorney general’s federal nomination.
"The irony of Mr. Sessions' nomination is that, if confirmed, he will be given a life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods.” #CorettaScottKing, 1986 https://t.co/hZzSTKj6UY— Be A King (@BerniceKing) February 12, 2018
Social media users had a lot to say about the comments:
Somebody ask Jeff Sessions where and for what purpose the “Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement” originated.— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) February 12, 2018
Jeff Sessions did a speech and said "the office of Sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement." He wanted to go on record with the ANGLO-AMERICAN description. He went full white supremacy, and every Black and non-white sheriff should be insulted pic.twitter.com/F0PYS5j7es— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) February 12, 2018
Sessions is many things (including a known liar and perjurer), but he is not stupid or thoughtless with his words.— Leah McElrath (@leahmcelrath) February 12, 2018
His stating LAW ENFORCEMENT itself (not just the office of sheriff) is part of “Anglo” heritage implies that non-whites are lawless.
That’s not unintentional.
Jeff Sessions is a living, breathing whites only water fountain. https://t.co/1ZSEupMNER— Will Fischer (@will_c_fischer) February 12, 2018
BREAKING: Jeff Sessions is a racist. In other shocking news, the earth is round and water is wet.— Adam Sank (@AdamSank) February 12, 2018
Not trying to pick just for the sake of picking, but the “Anglo” descriptor is seriously off base, racist, & reinforces images of individuals like Buford Pusser. Don’t want a return to those days. @jeffsessions needs to issue an apology for this pronto. It so sends a bad message.— Rose LaBerge (@ColdMountainGal) February 12, 2018
“Cops are white,” said Jeff Sessions, who is not racist. https://t.co/JP7KeCBNvo— Kashana (@kashanacauley) February 12, 2018
i really do believe jeff sessions is a confederate solider who put in the wrong date on his time travel machine— marisa kabas (@MarisaKabas) February 12, 2018
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Yuri Gripas