US Attorney General Nominee Says It’s Plain That Systemic Racism Exists In America
Judge Merrick Garland, President Biden’s nomination for attorney general, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that it is ‘plain’ that systemic racism exists in the US.
Garland faced two days of questioning after being chosen by Biden for the position, with the confirmation hearing beginning yesterday, February 22.
During the first day of questioning, Garland was asked by Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, to define systemic racism; a subject which has been in the spotlight recently following Black Lives Matter protests and issues of police brutality.
The attorney general nominee responded:
I think it is plain to me that there is discrimination and widespread disparate treatment of communities of colour and other ethnic minorities in this country.
They have a disproportionately lower employment, disproportionately lower home ownership rates, disproportionately lower ability to accumulate wealth.
Kennedy later asked Garland to clarify how he knew whether an institution was systemically racist, CNN reports, asking: ‘Do you measure it by disparate impact, controlling for other factors? Or do you just look at the numbers and say the system must be racist?’
Garland noted that the question differed to Kennedy’s original query, responding:
Well, now you’ve asked me a slightly different question, which I think I have a slightly different answer for.
The authority the Justice Department has to investigate institutions is to look for patterns or practices of unconstitutional conduct and if we find a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct, I would describe that as institutional racism within that institution. That may not be the perfect definition, but that’s what I would think.
Garland’s response to the questions indicate that the attorney general nominee will lead the Justice Department very differently to former attorneys general Jeff Sessions and William Barr, who served in the position under Donald Trump.
While Sessions and Barr were in charge, the department took a more limited role in reforming police departments accused of civil rights violations, and Barr repeatedly refused to recognise the role systemic racism plays in policing during last year’s Black Lives Matter protests.
Also at the confirmation hearing, Kennedy asked Garland to explain his view of the difference between people who are racist and institutional racism, as well as the ‘concept of implicit bias.’
Garland explained that implicit bias ‘just means that every human being has biases.’
That’s part of what it means to be a human being. And the point of examining our implicit biases is to bring our conscious mind up to our unconscious mind and to know when we’re behaving in a stereotyped way.
Everybody has stereotypes. It’s not possible to go through life without working through stereotypes. And implicit biases are the ones that we don’t recognise our behavior. That doesn’t make you racist, no.
Following the first day of the hearing, Lynda Williams, the president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, praised Garland’s responses to the questions.
Speaking to CNN, she described herself as ‘hopeful and optimistic’ that he is confirmed, and that he will lead the country ‘out of a very dark place.’
The Senate will now need to vote to confirm Garland to become attorney general.
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