“A Department of Justice, But For Whom?”

Joshua Matz and Leah Litman:

At the end of March, a group of conservative activists sent Attorney General Jeff Sessions an unsolicited letter with some detailed suggestions about how to “fix” the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. (The letter’s crucial premise is that the Division is badly broken because it fails adequately to prosecute a supposed avalanche of voter fraud.)  This letter doesn’t say anything that critics of Sessions had not foreseen. But it does align with many worst-case predictions about what Sessions (and his lieutenants) will do to DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.

In short, not only do Trump and Sessions’ more vocal supporters hope that this administration will stop using the Civil Rights Division to shield people of color from discrimination, but they also hope to use the Civil Rights Division as a sword to subject vulnerable minorities to still more discrimination.  Their letter thus awkwardly fuses two opposition narratives to anti-discrimination law—the idea of a “post-racial world” and the ugly undertones of white racial resentment.  These two ideas are (obviously) in tension, and the letter to Sessions underscores the toxicity of that combination.

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