Loretta Lynch, Racially Charged Justice and Me

Loretta Lynch, Racially Charged Justice and Me

In this Dec. 2, 2014 file photo, Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch meets with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. on Capitol Hill in Washington. As the Justice Department opens a civil rights investigation into the chokehold death of an unarmed man in New York City, the prosecutor in charge of the probe is juggling another high-profile role: designated heir to Eric Holder as the nation’s attorney general. The dual positions have placed Loretta Lynch in a public spotlight ahead of Senate confirmation hearings, a period when cabinet nominees normally seek a lower profile to avoid providing fodder for critics. She’ll inevitably be questioned about the investigation into Eric Garner’s death, an obvious priority for a Justice Department seeking to address concerns about police use of force and racial bias in law enforcement.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
In this Dec. 2, 2014 file photo, Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch meets with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

 

(Politico) – I was taken to the woodshed by Loretta Lynch. The occasion was a 2011 panel about criminal justice at a reunion of Harvard Law School’s African-American alumni. Lynch, who’s been nominated to succeed Eric Holder as attorney general, is the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. The room was filled with some of the most privileged blacks in the country, and I suggested that working as a prosecutor might not be the best use of their considerable talents, that they probably had not gone to law school to put minorities and poor people in jail, and that their work made them complicit with a racist criminal-justice system.

Lynch let me have it.

She was very proud to be a prosecutor, she said, because she viewed her role as protecting the people in her district, who are mainly racial and ethnic minorities. She noted that historically those communities had been “targeted by the police” but not protected by them—at least not “as well as the white woman on Park Avenue.”

But what about all those young black men she was locking up? Here she sounded mainly like, well, a prosecutor. Yes, her responsibilities included sending some people to prison, but she was gratified by people in the community who thanked her for making their streets safer.