After surviving a contentious nomination process, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rang the NAACP President Cornell William Brooks to arrange a sit-down meeting on his very first day on the job.
Now just three weeks into his new role, Sessions met with Brooks and NAACP General Counsel Brad Berry on Friday at the Department of Justice. In a meeting that Brooks described as, “politely and necessarily blunt, cordial, and candid,” the two discussed voting rights, voter suppression, and policing.
“I told him history is upon us. It will be a civil rights crisis in the next few weeks or months. We’ve been here before and there’s unrest.” Brooks said in an interview with NBCBLK. “People will look to the Department of Justice for reassurance, impartiality, and fairness. The weight of history is on his shoulders.”
Ever since Sessions' nomination, the NAACP and other civil rights organizations have expressed concern that Sessions would not uphold and protect civil rights. Showing opposition to Sessions' nomination, Brooks and other members of the NAACP were arrested after a series of sit-ins outside Sessions senate office in Alabama on January 3.
During heated confirmation hearings, Rep. John Lewis, Sen. Cory Booker and a chorus of other lawmakers told their congressional colleagues that Sessions was unfit to lead the Justice Department.
Brooks says now that Sessions has taken office, he and the organization still stand by the opposition to his nomination and will hold him accountable.
“We’re calling on him to do the job he was confirmed to do, nothing has changed. It’s not about opposing the person for a position, it’s about supporting the work that must be done in the position. Now that he’s in the seat, we have to hold his feet and everyone else's feet to the fire.”
In the meeting the NAACP proposed the nomination of a special attorney general on civil rights “with experience that has demonstrated a commitment to civil rights.” The two disagreed on issues such as enforcing consent decrees and Sessions’ decision to limit federal investigations of police departments that violate civil rights of minorities.
“He gave the notion that consent decrees are demoralizing police departments and too restrictive on police departments contributing to a rise in crime in certain cities. That’s like saying chemotherapy as treatment causes cancer.” Brooks said.
On whether the meeting was successful and if his proposals would be put into action, Brooks says “time and action will tell” and he hopes Sessions will communicate on key issues in the future.
“If the attorney general is going to fight voter suppression, he’s going to have to fight on the side of the NAACP. It’s not a matter of one meeting, but many meetings, much work to be done. The voting rights of Americans are in peril. He is at a point where he needs to stand on the side of victims of discrimination. We are in a Twitter Age Civil Rights Movement, these are not ordinary times, you can’t go about politics as usual."