Dear Senator Tillis,
The 1986 letter by Coretta Scott King to Senator Strom Thurmond that Elizabeth Warren was censured for reading contains words you need to hear. In that letter, King, a woman of incredible strength and tenacity, explained in clear terms why Jeff Sessions should not be elevated to the Federal District Court of the Southern District of Alabama. The issue, she said, was voter's rights. It was clear to King back then that Jeff Sessions had participated in blocking access to the polls for black people. In other words, Sessions was accused of undermining the democratic process first and foremost. Questions of his racism linger in the accusation, but the primary matter is that of democracy. King comments on both facets of the problem when she writes, "The irony of Mr. Sessions' nomination is that, if confirmed, he will be given life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods."
As a Senator in North Carolina, King's words should trouble you for a very specific reason: they are as pertinent today for your own state as they were in 1986 for Alabama. The Federal Court of Appeals very recently struck down North Carolina's Voter ID law saying its provisions deliberately “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision” in an effort to depress black turnout at the polls" (NY Times: http://ow.ly/f7dN308O9ZH). Based in part on those findings, the Electoral Integrity Project pronounced that North Carolina is no longer considered a democracy according to verified statistical analysis (http://ow.ly/n6TY308OatU). It is clear that the fears expressed by King in 1986 are once again palpable, this time because Jeff Sessions is poised to assume an even more powerful position in the US Government. King's accusations, therefore, can and should be summoned during Sessions' nomination proceedings, and, moreover, you as a Senator of this particular state need to take King's words to heart. That is, by supporting Mitch McConnell in censuring King via her contemporary spokeswoman Elizabeth Warren, and by voting to confirm Jeff Sessions, you are perpetuating North Carolina's questionable past and making possible a deeply upsetting future in which a man of questionable integrity drives the US legal system.
I have written to you quite recently about the confirmation of DeVos for Secretary of Education. You did not listen to my appeal as you cast your vote in favor of her nomination. This time, however, I urge you to listen to my voice and those who share my concerns about Jeff Sessions. If you vote to make him US Attorney General, you are demonstrating to me and to likeminded individuals that you don't value the words of one of our country's most powerful black, female activists, that you don't take seriously the recent condemnation of North Carolina's voter laws, and that you don't care about the legitimate concerns about Sessions's racist behavior.
If you vote for Jeff Sessions, I will write to you again and request an explanation. In the meantime, if my words aren't enough to at least motivate a long meditation on the problem at hand, then please read King's letter in full. You can find it here: http://ow.ly/LGmR308Odaq. I recommend you read it aloud.
Will Daddario, PhD
Asheville, NC 28803
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Will Daddario is a historiographer, philosopher, and teacher. He currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina.