US Attorney General Jeff Sessions is being accused of racism after referred to the “Anglo-American heritage” of the office of sheriff. He used the phrase in a speech to the National Sheriffs’ Association in Washington.
“I want to thank every sheriff in America. Since our founding, the independently elected sheriff has been the people’s protector, who keeps law enforcement close to and accountable to people through the elected process,” Sessions said on Monday, adding:
“The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement … We must never erode this historic office.”
The “Anglo-American” part was not in the prepared remarks as published by the Department of Justice, which suggests it was improvised by Sessions on the spot.
The AG’s critics on Twitter were quick to accuse him of ‘white-washing’ and white supremacy. In their interpretation, speaking of “Anglo-American heritage” excludes US populations who do not claim an ‘Anglo-American’ identity, such as African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics.
The word “heritage” is also often adopted by many across the South defending the public display of Confederate flags, likewise considered offensive by African-Americans.
It was like “watching white supremacy work in the name of the law,” wrote Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Professor of African American studies at Princeton.
Sessions’ critics also included media personality Tariq Nasheed and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico).
Jeff Sessions did a speech and said "the office of Sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement." He wanted to go on record with the ANGLO-AMERICAN description. He went full white supremacy, and every Black and non-white sheriff should be insulted pic.twitter.com/F0PYS5j7es
— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) 12 February 2018
I can only hope that this remark will provoke others to research that heritage of law enforcement, examine the history of policing in these United States, and consider that what Jeff Sessions labels “erosion” is may actually be progress. Nothing to add. https://t.co/xpoDWJQq2s
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) 12 February 2018
Historically, a sheriff ("shire reeve") was a legal official who presided over a “shire” or county. The word comes from an Old English term for a royal official responsible for keeping the peace (or ‘reeve’) on behalf of the king. The institution was exported to North America by early English colonists.
Before they became glamorized in Hollywood Westerns, the best-known sheriff of old was the Sheriff of Nottingham, the grasping villain of the Robin Hood legend. It remains unclear whether Sessions was attempting to vindicate this particular aspect of “Anglo-American heritage,” however.
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