Tomorrow, Kristen Clarke will address the Senate in her confirmation hearing to lead the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Kristen –– who previously led the esteemed Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, fought for voting rights at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and managed the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York Department of Law under Attorney General Eric Schneiderman –– is an exceedingly qualified nominee for this position, with a long and successful career fighting for civil rights and against all forms of discrimination, including antisemitism.
Kristen, like several other female nominees of color for Senate confirmable positions, has faced outrageous backlash that simply cannot be explained by the facts of her career. Kristen Clarke is exactly the kind of person we should celebrate as a leader of the CRD, recognizing her extensive experience in litigating against white supremacy and racial injustice and for religious freedom and equity. If confirmed, she will be the first woman to lead the CRD since it was established in 1957; given the urgency of the fight for racial justice in America at this very moment, having a Black woman take the mantle will be even more pathbreaking.
As Attorney General Garland made expressly clear in his own confirmation hearing, accusations of antisemitism against Kristen Clarke have no legitimate place in her confirmation process. Like all of us, Kristen made a mistake in college, for which she apologized at the time, and which the record she has built over decades of exemplary public service should expunge. The fact is, no matter who were to lead the CRD, the Jewish community must play an active role in helping the department identify today’s complex manifestations of antisemitism in order to effectively combat this rising and deadly form of hate. This is why we are so grateful that Kristen has made clear her commitment to working in partnership with Jewish leadership to protect our community –– as well as her support for the Biden administration’s position on the IHRA definition, including its examples of contemporary antisemitism, as outlined in Secretary Blinken’s email to the American Zionist Movement.
This is a moment to unite around the nomination of an immensely and uniquely qualified individual who will undoubtedly use this role to advance and protect women, Black Americans, people of color, religious minorities, LGBTQ+ people, and all those facing oppression and persecution in America. It’s a moment to reject the racism and misogyny that has pervaded the confirmation process in the past. If members of the U.S. Senate truly want to protect the Jewish community, they should feel free to ask Kristen about her experience in and commitment to the fight against antisemitism –– and then promptly confirm her, so she can get to work on behalf of us all.