EDITOR’S NOTE: Employing Old South tactics of interposition and nullification, the Senators from US Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch’s home state of North Carolina have blocked a vote on her nomination for nearly five months. Rev. William J. Barber, leader of the Moral Movement in North Carolina, issued this plea at the beginning of Holy Week, calling Senators Burr and Tillis to rise above the legacy of Sam Eastland, Strom Thurmond, and Jesse Helms and help move America toward higher ground.
Dear Senator Burr and Senator Tillis:
We, the NC NAACP and our 170 partners in the Forward Together Moral Movement, peacefully petition you while you are on Easter recess in our beloved North Carolina to resign from the chorus of hate and division, set aside the petty politics of Washington, and listen to the chorus of love, justice and unity in North Carolina.
Specifically, we ask each of you, during this Holy Week, when courage, love, and justice triumphed over fear, hatred and injustice, to announce your support for U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch for the Attorney General of the United States of America. We petition you, Senator Burr, to listen to the lessons taught by your father a well-respected minister who led by example promoting the social justice agenda of Jesus the Christ. We petition you, Senator Tillis, to stand apart from the crowd that would have you supporting a regressive agenda of exclusion and bigotry and show that North Carolina is moving to a higher and nobler ground than that promoted by your billionaire sponsors.
You have said you would not support Ms. Lynch, a daughter of three generation of African American ministers, because she has pledged and will pledge to enforce the U.S. Constitution, including its requirements to provide Equal Protection to all U.S. citizens, and to not allow the denial or abridgement of the right to vote to all U.S. citizens.
We find your reasoning quite disturbing on many levels. One hundred forty five years ago, after being ratified by three-fourths of the re-united states, the 15th Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution, establishing the constitutional right of all people of color—particularly those who had been slaves and their offspring—to vote. The 15th Amendment provides: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. It is the constitutional duty of the U.S. Attorney General to enforce this right.
Today is the 142nd day Ms. Lynch’s nomination has been tossed around like a hot political potato in the U.S. Senate. In a shameful display of chauvinism and disrespect for her, some Senators have treated her nomination as an opportunity for their own ambitions, rather than an opportunity to strengthen law enforcement.
When you return to the United States Senate, it will be over five months that you have held the United States Department of Justice in limbo. While the Senate fiddles its chorus of hate and division, many segments of our nation are burning. Relations between people of color and the broken “justice” systems in our cities are strained. Thoughtful Justice Department guidance about fixing these dysfunctional systems needs strong, sensible and sober leadership. Rather than putting this highly qualified prosecutor in charge quickly, political games are played. Justice sits, not only blindfolded, but strapped to her chair by preening, prancing politicians who are preaching politics of fear and hatred.
Enforcement of civil rights deserves a stabilized U.S. Department of Justice. Enforcing voting rights needs a stabilized U.S. Department of Justice. Step up to the plate, do your duty and lead with a higher moral conviction and sense of servitude to the people of North Carolina. When you return to the U.S. Senate after Easter, we pray you will announce you have experienced a newness of thinking symbolic of the newness of life that Jesus’s resurrection represents. We pray you will no longer stay in the grave of partisan politics but will rise up as leaders who can take North Carolina and our nation to higher ground. What a glorious image it would be to see you escorting Ms. Lynch to the Senate floor to be sworn in as the next Attorney General of the United States. Think about, pray about and act to make this become a reality for the good of the whole and for the good of the United States of America.
In prayer, respect, and abiding faith that the Moral Arc still bends toward Justice,
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II
President, NC NAACP