Kristen Clarke was confirmed by Senate in a 51-48 vote on Tuesday to serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division. Clarke is the first Black woman to serve in this position.
“Our nation is a healthier place when we respect the rights of all communities. In every role I’ve had, I have worked for and with people of all backgrounds — regardless of race, national origin, religion, and disability status,” Clarke wrote. “I’ve listened deeply to all sides of debates, regardless of political affiliation. There is no substitute to listening and learning this work, and I pledge to you that I will bring that to the role if confirmed.”
For the past five years, Clarke has served as president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
“Kristen has not only the skill set, but the temperament to handle all of that; she just let it slide off. This is someone who — even before nomination — she received hate mail for suing the Proud Boys before the insurrection,” Damon Hewitt, the executive director and current president of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told CNN.
After Clarke’s nomination, controversial things from her past resurfaced. While Clarke was studying at Harvard University, she co-authored an article that compared Black and White genetics. While serving as the leader of Harvard’s Black Students’ Association, she invited an anti-Semitic author for a speaking engagement.
Republican Senators Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley refused to vote for Clarke because of her stance on police reform.
“This is not the right nominee for a crucial post at a crucial time,” McConnell said.
“Kristen Clarke’s brazen disdain for law enforcement — evidenced by her repeated calls to defund the police and her troubling history of advocacy on behalf of brutal cop killers — should be disqualifying to serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division,” Cruz said.
“I do not support defunding police,” Clarke said at her confirmation hearing. “I do support finding strategies to ensure that law enforcement can carry out their jobs more safely and effectively and channeling resources to emotional health treatment and other severely under-resourced areas.”
Derrick Johnson, the president of NAACP, told CNN that Clarke is being challenged because of the color of her skin.
According to CNN, Clarke is a first-generation American. Her parents immigrated from Jamaica. She was educated at Harvard University and Columbia University School of Law.