I was beyond excited when civil rights rock star Vanita Gupta was nominated to be the number three position at the Department of Justice. It is historic to see a woman of color and an experienced civil rights leader nominated for this role. But my excitement turned to rage watching the sexism and racism she faced throughout her senate confirmation hearing—something that powerful women of color far too often face.
Vanita Gupta is unequivocally qualified to be Associate Attorney General of the United States. She is a civil rights attorney with decades of experience who has held high-level roles at DOJ and prominent civil rights organization, and has a reputation as a consensus builder and fierce champion for equal justice. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the reckoning on racial justice, the Department of Justice urgently needs her leadership, experience, integrity, and unwavering commitment to racial and gender equity.
And yet during her confirmation hearing, we saw blatant unequal treatment by some Senators questioning Ms. Gupta when compared to the other DOJ nominees, Judge Garland or Ms. Monaco. Even though many of her answers mirrored the other nominees’ answers, which were accepted and met with minimal resistance, Senators who opposed Ms. Gupta’s nomination repeatedly badgered her, interrupted her (at least 15 times), and refused to listen to her answers. Despite being on the same hearing, Ms. Gupta received three times as many questions as Ms. Monaco. Instead of asking about her qualifications, some Senators mischaracterized her prior advocacy positions and statements and pressed her to apologize for her harsh tweets. Her opponents also labelled her decades long record of zealously advocating for marginalized communities as “radical,” “extreme-left,” “strident,” and “salacious.” Make no mistake, this is coded language used to bring down women of color with lived experiences and backgrounds that dare to challenge the status quo of corporate cishet-white-men having a monopoly over these powerful positions and defining what is considered neutral and unbiased.
It’s no surprise that the women of color nominated by the Biden-Harris administration are being attacked and are facing racist, sexist double-standards. Women have been subject to stereotypes and troupes about their qualifications, leadership, looks, demeanor- this is especially amplified and weaponized against Black and Brown women. We won’t let sexism and racism succeed in obstructing yet another ridiculously qualified nominee. Ms. Gupta is Day One Ready and #WeHaveHerBack. Let’s work to #ConfirmGupta.