Yesterday many men and women became acquainted for the first time with our nation’s attorney general, Loretta Lynch. She delivered a beautiful, powerful speech in North Carolina to announce the complaint the Department of Justice is filing against her home state of North Carolina after the “bathroom bill” was signed into law, and condemned discrimination against trans people in no uncertain terms.
“This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms,” she said. “This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we, as a people and as a country, have enacted to protect them — indeed, to protect all of us.”
Though she is the United States Attorney General, until yesterday, her name was unknown to many, which is unfortunate, because Lynch has been kicking ass and taking names under the radar for years. Yesterday’s speech on behalf of the transgender community was just one in the long line of her trailblazing career.
Here are seven things you need to know about Loretta Lynch:
1. She’s the United States Attorney General
And she has held this position for a year. She was sworn in as the 83rd attorney general of the United States by Vice President Joe Biden on April 27, 2015.
2. She has a law degree from Harvard Law School
She graduated cum laude from Harvard College in 1981 and received her Doctor of Law degree from Harvard Law School in 1984. So yeah, you could say she’s got some brain power.
3. Bill Clinton elected her United States Attorney
In 1999, President Bill Clinton appointed Lynch as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Lynch was only the second African-American to be named to that post, and in a historic speech in 2000, she said something that got everyone’s attention: “I took office last summer, and as I did, I am sure that a long line of dead white men rolled over in their graves. But at the same time, I am sure that just a stone’s throw away from here, in the African burial ground, a long line of people for whom the law was an instrument of oppression, sat up and smiled.”
4. She’s got a long history of working civil rights cases
In 2001, Lynch was a member of the team that prosecuted a New York City police officer who had brutalized a black Haitian immigrant named Abner Louima. The trial was highly publicized, and that same year, she was quoted as saying that black officers and prosecutors “often face a dual challenge — trying to improve a system that traditionally was one of the harshest to us.”
Lynch also offered her assistance pro bono for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, established to prosecute those responsible for human rights violations in the 1994 genocide in that country. Her role there was to investigate allegations of witness tampering and false testimonies.
5. She’s prosecuted terrorists
In 2010, President Obama asked Lynch to resume her previous position at the United States Attorneys Office in Brooklyn. While she was there, she led her team to prosecute numerous terrorists, corrupt public officials, cyber criminals and human traffickers.
6. She’s also prosecuted big banks
In 2013, she collaborated with then Attorney General Eric Holder in the Justice Department investigation that forced Citigroup to pay a $7 billion fine for having helped trigger the financial crisis of 2008.
7. She’s fought racial injustices her entire career
After the acquittal of four policemen involved in the infamous beating of Rodney King, Lynch stood before a Baptist church congregation in South Carolina and reprimanded a society in which racial minorities were routinely targeted and abused. “There is a poverty of spirit afflicting America that is crippling it,” she said. “Los Angeles has been burning for a long time, but no one noticed it. New York City is burning right now. Chicago is burning. Atlanta is burning. No one notices until the fire inside builds and strikes an outer match, and the flames rise above the skyline.”
That speech may have been her first notable public speech pertaining to the sad and often crooked injustices of our country, but it was hardly the last. She’s spent her entire career attempting to right the wrongs of those that have devalued the lives of men and woman based on meritless and often degrading accusations. Yesterday she stood up for the transgender community like she has for so many others throughout her career, and if her history is any indication of her future, she will continue to fight for those who aren’t given a chance to fight for themselves.