Justice Department nominee Kristen Clarke defended her past writings and said an op-ed she wrote while in college stating that Black people are superior was satirical, after Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, raised concerns over the piece.
During Clarke’s confirmation hearing as nominee for assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, Cornyn asked if Clarke agrees with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that people would be judged on their character instead of skin color. After she confirmed that she does, the senator brought up the op-ed, which appeared in the Harvard Crimson.
“I believe you’re referring to an op-ed that I wrote at the age of 19 about the Bell Curve Theory, a racist book that equated DNA with genetics and race,” Clarke said, referencing the 1994 book.
Clarke stated that as a Black student at Harvard at the time, she and others were offended by the book, which was co-authored by a Harvard professor, Richard J. Hernstein. She explained that her op-ed attempted to point out the flaws in the book by putting forth another offensive idea.
“This op-ed opened with a satirical reference to the statement that you just noted,” Clarke told Cornyn. The op-ed put forth the idea that Blacks are superior due to higher levels of melanin.
Clarke noted Wednesday that reporting in the campus newspaper at the time “made very clear” that the op-ed did not represent her actual views. “What I was seeking to do was hold up a mirror and put one racist theory alongside another to challenge people as to why we were unwilling to wholly reject the racist theory that defined the Bell Curve book,” she said.
Clarke has faced a number of accusations from Republicans regarding her viewpoints. A university transcript obtained by the American Accountability Foundation and given to Fox News showed that when she was a student at Columbia Law School in 1999, she was instrumental in organizing an event where activists supported the freeing of death row inmates, whom they referred to as “political prisoners.”
The list included people convicted for a wide array of crimes, including convicted cop-killers Mumia Abu-Jamal and Assata Shakur, and other radical extremists like Susan Rosenberg, who was convicted for transporting multiple illegal firearms and over 740 pounds of explosives.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., pushed back on the attacks waged against Clarke.
“Sadly, some are so threatened by a revitalized Civil Rights Division that they have already engaged in baseless attacks on this extremely well-qualified nominee,” Durbin said, pointing to allegations that she is “anti-police”and anti-Semitic, the latter of which he noted was rejected by Attorney General Merrick Garland, who during his own confirmation hearing spoke about how his own family escaped anti-Semitism in Europe.