NBJC Statement on Senate Confirmations of Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos
WASHINGTON, DC – The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the nation’s leading civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS, released the following statement from NBJC Executive Director and CEO, Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks, in response to the Senate confirmations of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to be the next U.S. Attorney General and Betsy DeVos to serve as the next U.S. Secretary of Education:
“Attorney General Sessions is responsible for all functions of the Department of Justice and has taken an oath to defend and protect the civil rights of all Americans. His record as Alabama’s U.S. Senator—voting against federal hate crimes legislation, Violence Against Women Act and the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’—demonstrates an incredible lack of will to fight for the most vulnerable in our society. His praise of the Supreme Court’s decision to gut fundamental provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 or his decision to support legislation that would legalize public discrimination of minorities on the grounds of religion makes plain his vision of our nation’s Justice Department. I am beyond troubled that this same individual is now charged with providing legal counsel to our President and overseeing justice matters in our country. He will undoubtedly make decisions on such life changing matters as policing in our communities, the future of voting rights, the rights of the most marginalized in our nation and world, and the insurance of due process for all people as the 14th Amendment of the Constitution mandates. Where Attorney General Sessions comes down on these issues of our day will determine his success or failure in his new role serving as the top law enforcement official of our nation.
“In confirming Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, 50 Senators along with the Vice President’s historic tie-breaking vote, have done a major disservice to the majority of our nation’s students that attends public schools. During her confirmation hearing, Secretary DeVos displayed a lack of basic knowledge of federal education laws and policies, and understanding of the role of the U.S. Secretary of Education. She is a long-time proponent of both school voucher programs and unchecked charter schools, and has used her vast wealth to influence and support the campaigns of the very Senators who voted in favor of her confirmation. Secretary DeVos has absolutely no experience in the classroom or working with public school students, or the educators, families, and communities that support them. NBJC commends all Senate Democrats and Republican Senators Collins of Maine and Mukowski of Alaska who stood on principle and voted against this nomination. They defended every child’s right, no matter their background or zip code, to a quality education where their civil rights are respected.
“NBJC opposed both of these nominees on the merits of their records, which we have outlined in prior public statements. However, we understand that we live in a democracy and must move forward, but we will not be silent. We cannot afford to stand on the sidelines because our nation’s future depends on what we do now. As the prolific Black freedom fighter Marcus Garvey once said: ‘When all else fails to organize the people, conditions will.’ The present times we face obligate us all to remain engaged and organized to ensure our voices are heard when it comes to the critical decisions being made in Washington. More than ever, our collective actions must demand that these cabinet officials uphold the principles of the oath they have taken to serve the people. NBJC will continue to bring voice and take action to highlight how the decisions that are rendered by these officials impact our community at the intersection of racial justice and LGBTQ equality, and then we will make sure to hold them accountable.”