On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed a gathering of the nation’s sheriffs, where he once again committed to his job of making subtext text.
Sessions was speaking before the National Sheriffs Association, a trade association representing roughly 20,000 law enforcement officials across the country.
“The office of Sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement,” Sessions told the conference attendees. “We must never erode this historic office.”
“Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement”? Hmm, what could that possibly mean?
This comment does not appear in Sessions’ prepared remarks. As Vice News’ Tess Owen points out, Sessions could have been referring to the Anglo-Saxon origins of the role of the sheriff (the sheriff of Nottingham, etc.)
Still, considering every single god-given thing we know about Jeff Sessions, that is a very generous interpretation of his remarks. When you are Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, and are viewed as a racist by a wide variety of people, one would think you might consider the optics of praising “Anglo-American heritage” in front of a largely white crowd of cops.
The rest of Sessions’ remarks are more tactfully written but equally horrifying.
“The most important thing that any government does is keep its citizens safe. The first civil right is the right to be safe,” one part of the speech reads. “Too often, politics gets in the way of that mission.”
That dichotomy—between “safety” and “politics”—is worth exploring. The clear unspoken idea is that it’s justifiable for black people to live in fear of law enforcement as long as white people feel “safe.” A black parent’s legitimate fears that their son might not come home from school one day is just “politics,” while uncritical support of a militarized police force that operates with relative impunity is “safety.”
This shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise, but Sessions is pushing an industry already imbued with its fair share of white supremacist sentiment in an even darker direction. I’m sure his intended audience loved it.