By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., NNPA Columnist
After a 166-day partisan political struggle in the U.S. Senate to confirm the first Black American woman to be the attorney general of the United States, finally on the afternoon of April 23, history was made. Loretta Elizabeth Lynch has now been confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 56 to 43 after being nominated last year by President Barack Obama.
I have known the Lynch family for a long time in Durham, N.C., where Loretta Lynch’s father, Rev. Lorenzo Lynch Sr., served faithfully as the Senior Pastor of the legendary White Rock Baptist Church from 1965 to 1993. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave one his famous sermons in 1960 at the White Rock Baptist Church titled, “Fill Up the Jails,” that encouraged nonviolent civil disobedience as the strategic tactic to advance civil rights.
Loretta Lynch, in addition to being well qualified to be the attorney general of the U.S. as an accomplished federal prosecutor and legal scholar, also comes from a strong Black American family that has made outstanding contributions and sacrifices toward the progress of Black America for over four generations in North Carolina and throughout the nation.
President Obama made the right decision at the right time concerning Loretta Lynch. The baton is being passed now from Attorney General Eric Holder, who did an outstanding job as the first Black American to be attorney general, to Loretta Lynch at a time when rampant racially motivated police killings of Black people across the nation is escalating.
In addition to critical issues of ending police racial profiling and the unlawful use of deadly force against Black Americans, the new attorney general will have to confront the growing unconstitutional measures by many state legislatures to suppress and deny the voting rights of Black Americans in particular. Attorney General Lynch will have to help lead the way back to Congress restoring Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated.
Racial discrimination in housing, health care delivery, mass incarceration, bank lending policies, access to wealth, environmental protection, public education, and unjust policies in higher education opportunities for disadvantaged college students all are crucial matters that Attorney General Lynch will have to confront. I am confident, however, given Lynch’s proven track record of rising to the occasion in demanding that justice is done, that she will do well going forward.
I wish I could say that I was surprised to see that the two Republican Senators from North Carolina, Richard Barr and ThomTillis, both voted against Lynch, even though they knew of her qualifications and track record of leadership. The attacks on President Obama and on Loretta Lynch were not just politically motivated. I believe that these attacks were are also racially motivated.
Lezli Baskerville, noted lawyer and president and CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) stated, “The confirmation of U.S. Attorney Lynch comes at a time when leadership from the Attorney General and the Department’s Educational Opportunities Section is essential to ensuring that states that maintain a higher education system with both public historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and historically white colleges and universities (HWCUs) invest in HBCUs such that they are comparable to and competitive with HWCUs relative to their missions.” The past and present racial inequities in education in America have to be challenged anew.
Racism persists in America in part because it is not called out enough. Yes, we have made progress toward racial equality and justice. But we are not there yet. We have not reached the finish line to end racial injustice and inequality. We still have not overcome and we must remain vigilant and vocal and in the quest for freedom, justice and equality.
We, therefore congratulate Attorney General Loretta Lynch and wish her all the best. It will not be easy, but we know and believe that more great achievement and national leadership are on the horizon of the future. Thank you Sister Lynch for making history and for continuing to make a difference.