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PJC Statement on Jeff Sessions' Slavery Comments

From Nixon’s Southern Strategy to Reagan’s “welfare queens” to George H.W. Bush’s record on race, Republicans used to express their feelings with “dog whistles.” But in the Age of Trump, it’s become quite common to replace dog whistles with bullhorns – and to say what they really are thinking in clear, unequivocal terms. Take these words, from the former U.S. Attorney General and ex-Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.


“Did [the founders] make a mistake in not ending slavery in the Constitution…well, it was a failure, but was it really a mistake? Didn’t it allow for the progress to occur? And it’s not perfect now, I know that, but most of the legal barriers have been knocked down. So I think we should celebrate America, we have every right to; it was the greatest advancement for human liberty, freedom, equality, and the respect for individuals at the time.” —Jeff Session (Source: AL.com)

This was Sessions speaking Sept. 5, not inadvertently to a hot mic, but openly addressing the Alabama Governor’s Commission on Teaching and Learning. Since Sessions clearly believes and stands by what he says, it is likewise no surprise that he claims the history that Alabama students are being taught is “fundamentally flawed” and that “We don’t need to be implying to our students that the foundation is not honorable, and that the country isn’t worthy of being respected and loved.” (AL.com)


It likewise comes as no surprise that this isn’t Sessions’ first time flirting open-mouthed with disaster. For example, he was widely criticized for citing a Bible passage used by American slaveholders to defend Trump’s family separation policy. But like a broken analog clock that still manages to display the correct time twice a day, Sessions actually managed (back in 2018) to correctly state the fact that slavery caused the Civil War.


Our People’s Justice Council values statement includes this line: “Our beloved community consists of those who have been downtrodden, demeaned, and disenfranchised, along with those who want to do something about it.” We cannot and will not be silent in response to Sessions’ harmful words, which deny history and demean and disenfranchise people of color. Since we do not expect any kind of apology to be forthcoming from Sessions and the many like-minded Republicans in places of power, from Montgomery, Alabama, to Washington, D.C., we instead demand that they shut the hell up and stop trying to whitewash history. And step aside; make way for true leaders and representatives of folk of all colors, leaders whose views aren’t literally centuries out of date.


“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.” —Malcolm X


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