By Amy Lukau
This past week, the American people saw the highly contested confirmation of Jeff Sessions take place. And it was yesterday that many in the black community, aware of Sessions political ideology were in no way surprised by the three executive orders signed by President Trump.
The newly minted Attorney General is the head of the Department of Justice. For those who are unaware, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is a cabinet-level agency responsible for enforcing the laws of the United States federal government. DOJ ensures public safety against foreign and domestic threats, including terrorism, and preventing crime.
The three executive orders will focus on “gang members, drug dealers, drug cartels and crimes against law enforcement officers.” The orders also give more authority to law enforcement.
President Trump referred to these orders as “public safety” orders reducing “the threat of rising crime.” The President then went on to say “I am directing the Department of Justice to reduce crimes and crimes of violence against law enforcement officers.” “It’s a shame, what has been happening to our great, our truly great, law enforcement officers. That is going to stop today.”
During his confirmation ceremony, Sessions said the U.S. has “a crime problem” and then went on to say “I wish the rise that we’re seeing in crime in America today were some sort of aberration or a blip. My best judgement, having been involved in criminal law enforcement for many years, is that this is a dangerous, permanent trend that puts the health and safety of America at risk.”
If one follows current events, the executive orders should not be an absolute shocker. Last week at the beginning of Black History Month, Pastor Darrell Scott in meeting with the President said he met with local gang leaders in Chicago.
“They’re going to commit that if they lower the body count, we come and do some social programs. They want to work with this administration. THEY reached out. I didn’t reach out to them” Scott stated.
It was confirmed later on in the week that the meeting with local gang members never occurred. Scott stated that he had ‘misspoke’ due to lack of sleep.
Nevertheless, those watching closely saw his statement for what it was, a political performance play. Those in the black community were indirectly being told what would happen in our inner cities if crime did not quell. The stage had been set.
The President made reference to “the threat of rising crime” while there has been constant outcry by those in the black community after police shootings of black civilians. President Trump did not mention accountability measures that police should be subject to when speaking of enforcement reform.
In 2016 1,153 people were killed by police, according to KilledByPolice.net.
The President has misrepresented crime statistics before. For example, he was correct when he cited a statistic from the Brennan Center for Justice, which found that, in the largest 30 cities, homicides increased by 14 percent from 2015 to 2016. But in that data set, one outlier city – Chicago – was responsible for 43.7 percent of the total increase in homicide rates in 2016.
These executive orders have a quotidian aura to them. Reminiscent of the time Bill Clinton presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history. Clinton supported the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for crack versus powder cocaine, which produced staggering racial injustice in sentencing and boosted funding for drug-law enforcement.
Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow explained it perfectly, saying that when Clinton left office in 2001, the United States had the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Human Rights Watch reported that in seven states, African Americans constituted 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison, even though they were no more likely than whites to use or sell illegal drugs. Prison admissions for drug offenses reached a level in 2000 for African Americans more than 26 times the level in 1983. All of the presidents since 1980 have contributed to mass incarceration, but as Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson recently observed, “President Clinton’s tenure was the worst.”
The alarm has been triggered. It is up to us as Americans, especially Black Americans to be vigilant in lieu of these orders and act accordingly. Strategies will be needed on how to combat what is already here and say not this time. WE see you.