If you want to see something truly remarkable, watch this video of a candidate for judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court telling the congregation of a black church to vote for her . . . because she is black. Skip ahead to 4:00:
UPDATE: If you have trouble seeing that video, watch at 4:00 on this version:
The candidate, Songhai “Sunny” Armstead, tells the congregation that she is “the only African-American” running and then says:
Why is that significant? You heard about realignment. You heard about the injustice that happens in our court system already. And you guys have seen who — I’m sure we all know who’s in our jails and who comes before our judges in court, right? It’s people who look a lot like the people in this room. People who look a lot like me.
I’ve been a prosecuting attorney and I’ve seen how things do not work in our system. I see how people who are disenfranchised, do not have appropriate education, or who come from underrepresented communities do not get access to fair justice. And part of the problem is that our judges don’t have the same life experiences that we have. They don’t have the same empathy. They don’t have the same understanding. They cannot relate. They have very narrow experiences. And so when they see a person come before them, they think everyone that comes before them is a horrible gang member or a violent criminal. You know?
Our jails are full of nonviolent people who are either have substance abuse problems, mental health issues, lack of education, or who are foster kids. Those people don’t need to be in jail. [Applause]
You have the power to change that. There are 15 open seats right now. I am the only African American running. There’s only one Chicana running. Can you guess who else is running? Are there people who care about the people in this room? Probably not. I can’t speak before them, but probably not.
You catch that? “Can you guess who else is running?” It appears that she is making a reference to white people. And do they care about black people such as the people in that church? Probably not.
That is Armstead’s attitude, and it is repulsive.
It gets worse. She encourages the black congregation to register to vote, saying: “I’m a judge for you.” She adds: “We have black legislators, we have a black president. We don’t have black judges.”
To show this is not a one-off, listen to Armstead making a similar pitch here:
I walk around in an environment that’s mostly white males and they’re looking for me to fall every single day. And I have to prove myself every single day. . . So that you guys understand when a judge is on the bench it’s almost impossible to get them off. OK? There has not been an African-American elected to the bench in over 14 years. We used to be able to vote for the judges in our community. That doesn’t happen any more. In 2000 the vote went county-wide. I have to get votes in Lancaster and Palmdale. I have to get those votes in Palos Verdes. I gotta get votes in Malibu and Long Beach and Carson and Compton and everything in between. I can’t do it without your help. I need you guys to register to vote. I know that we can because we have a black president, we have black [unintelligible], we need black people in every single part, diverse population, every single part of the government. We can put legislation in order but there has to be somebody there to execute it. And it can’t happen without your help.
I am absolutely disgusted by this blatant racial sales pitch. The job of a judge is to be fair and impartial. The job of a judge is to enforce the law — and to do so evenhandedly, regardless of skin color. Jurors in a criminal trial are specifically told not to be influenced by the “race or ethnicity” of a defendant, victim, or witness. If you watched the videos, you just heard Songhai “Sunny” Armstead make a mockery of that instruction. You just heard Songhai “Sunny” Armstead tell crowds of people that she would take race into account in making judicial decisions. You just heard Songhai “Sunny” Armstead tell a crowd of people: “I’m a judge for you.” Not for everyone. For them.
The Met News, which generally does a remarkably good job of evaluating the candidates, had this to say about Armstead:
How would you regard the following statement?
“You should vote against Songhai ‘Sunny’ Armstead for Los Angeles Superior Court Office No. 97 because she’s an African American.”
Any such statement would, of course, be blatantly and despicably racist.
Racist also is Armstead’s plea for votes because she’s an African American.
We view as disgusting any reference by a judicial candidate to his or her to race, religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, other than in the context of listing affiliations or recounting discrimination the candidate has personally endured or has witnessed and how this life experience would be beneficial in providing insights in carrying out judicial duties.
Armstead has amply demonstrated in the course of the campaign that she is not suited for a judgeship. . . . Speaking before a black congregation at a church in Gardena, Armstead asserted that non-black judges now on the Superior Court have no understanding of African Americans, and can’t empathize with them. Virtually pledging preferential treatment of blacks in her courtroom, she said: “I’m a judge for you.”
The Met News rejected Armstead and recommends a vote for Teresa Magno, who is a friend of mine. I have known Teresa for about ten years. I have worked with her, and have personally witnessed her dedication to justice. She spent years in the same gang unit that I work in, using extraordinary persistence and talent to prosecute gang members who commit murder. (As always, I speak in my private capacity and not on behalf of my office.) As the Met News says: “For 15 years, Magno has been a deputy DA and, aside from prosecuting misdemeanors, has handled 81 felony jury trials, including two in which a death sentence was sought. Impressively, every one of the 40 murder cases she has tried resulted in a conviction of at least one of the defendants.”
That is impressive indeed. What’s more, Teresa gets results like that with integrity — not by twisting the facts, but by working extra hard to gather the evidence necessary to prove her case.
Armstead looks out at a crowd of black people and tells them: “I’m a judge for you.” Teresa Magno will be a judge for everyone. I strongly urge my readers to vote for Teresa Magno on June 3. (Or earlier, if you’re one of these absentee voters.)
P.S. I have donated to Teresa, and you can too, here. But save some money for Amy Carter, my top recommendation in all these races, and one of my best friends in the world. A post on Amy is forthcoming.
P.P.S. Oh — and if you need any more motivation?
The Los Angeles Times endorses Armstead — with zero mention of her racial sales pitch. In addition to electing a great judge, you can take this opportunity to stick it to the L.A. Times.