Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A Low Bar That Must Be Cleared

President-elect Biden has nominated Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, to be Assistant US Attorney for Civil Rights Under Law. Last summer, responding to protests of the killing of George Floyd, Clarke wrote

This is a moment like none other in our nation's history. We are literally witnessing the emergence of one of the biggest racial justice movements that we have seen in modern time. For the first time, we are talking openly about white supremacy and racism.

If a researcher for Fox News' Tucker Carlson has the story right, Clarke certainly knows a lot about supremacy and racism. It's personal for he, or at least it once was because reportedly

In 1994, Clarke wrote a letter to The Harvard Crimson in her capacity as the president of the Black Students Association to explain her views on race science.

"Please use the following theories and observations to assist you in your search for truth regarding the genetic differences between Blacks and whites [sic]," Clarke wrote. "One: Dr Richard King reveals that the core of the human brain is the 'locus coeruleus,' which is a structure that is Black, because it contains large amounts of neuro-melanin, which is essential for its operation.

Two: Black infants sit, crawl and walk sooner than whites [sic]. Three: Carol Barnes notes that human mental processes are controlled by melanin -- that same chemical which gives Blacks their superior physical and mental abilities.

"Four: Some scientists have revealed that most whites [sic] are unable to produce melanin because their pineal glands are often calcified or non-functioning. Pineal calcification rates with Africans are five to 15 percent [sic], Asians 15 to 25 percent [sic] and Europeans 60 to 80 percent [sic]. This is the chemical basis for the cultural differences between blacks and whites [sic].

"Five: Melanin endows Blacks with greater mental, physical and spiritual abilities -- something which cannot be measured based on Eurocentric standards"...

After an outcry on campus, Kristen Clarke suggested that she didn't necessarily believe what she had written.

Just a month later, however, Clarke invited the noted Trinidadian anti-Semite Tony Martin to speak on campus. Martin, then a professor at Wellesley College, was the author of a self-published manifesto called "The Jewish Onslaught." In it, Martin chronicled the "escalating Jewish onslaught" against Black people.

For Martin's fans like Kristen Clarke, his speech at Harvard did not disappoint. He attacked both Jews and Judaism as a religion. Martin, who retired from Wellesley in 2007 and died in 2013, spent his final years giving speeches to Holocaust denial organizations on topics such as "tactics of organized Jewry in suppressing free speech."

Kristen Clarke strongly approved of Tony Martin, telling The Crimson: "Professor Martin is an intelligent, well-versed Black intellectual who bases his information on indisputable fact." According to Kristen Clarke, Tony Martin's anti Semitism was based on "indisputable fact."

These remarks may have been taken out of context. Or they could have been merely the intellectual ramblings of a young Harvard University student. Presumably, that will be determined at the confirmation hearings of the highly accomplished nominee, whose parents emigrated from Jamaica and sent their daughter to Choate Rosemary Hall, a preparatory high school in Connecticut.

No one should be denied a critical position in a presidential administration simply because she is a child of privilege nor supported supremacy (white or black) twenty-six years earlier. Clarke will presumably be asked about the remarks and whether she'd say the same things now.

Of course, she will express her deep regret for them- whether or not they were accurately transcribed and reported. If nothing else, they will make it more difficult for her to gain confirmation.

But more is necessary. Clarke needs to state definitively that she was wrong at the time and no longer believes what it appears she wrote.  After four years of an administration headed by Donald Trump, a summer of protests of racial discrimination, and a recent attack on American government motivated in part by racial hostility, there is something that Democrats and Republicans should demand of our leaders: racists need not apply.

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