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February 18, 2009

Attorney General Eric Holder Says America Is "A Nation Of Cowards" When It Comes To Talking About Race

I wish I could say I was making this up but alas, no such luck.

"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," said Holder, nation's first black attorney general.

Race issues continue to be a topic of political discussion, Holder said, but "we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race."

He urged people of all races to use Black History Month as a chance for honest discussion of racial matters, including issues of health care, education, and economic disparities.

Race "is an issue we have never been at ease with and, given our nation's history, this is in some ways understandable," Holder said. "If we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another and tolerant enough of each other to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us."

The idea that we don't talk about race enough in this country is simply laughable on its face. As Ace pointed out after Obama's "Toss Rev. Wright And Grandma Under The Bus Speech" in Philadelphia last March, it's that some things are never on the agenda for discussion that creates problems.


I agree with Ambinder that this was, however, a lecture, not a "dialogue." Futhermore it was a lecture for white people only. Whites were told that legitimate grievances over black criminality -- oh, by the way, the real and enduring source of racial tension -- and Affirmative Action were "exploited" by politicians and media to stoke "fear" for personal gain. Hence, not really legitimate at all.

Meanwhile, as regards Wright and black hatred and borderline insane paranoia, he counseled "understanding" by whites -- but no call for blacks to give up such retrograde and hateful fantasies and scapegoatings.

My idea of a truly groundbreaking speech would involve a Cosbyesque riff on some of the real causes of white resentment, starting first and foremost with rampant black criminality and anti-social behavior, and blacks' acceptance of this as not only acceptable but justified -- perhaps even obligatory -- given past and current racial discrimination.

Now if Holder wants to have that kind of discussion, then yeah maybe we need to talk more. However given the fact that that didn't happen after his bosses big race speech in Philly and Holder's typical liberal litany of "health care, education, and economic disparities" I'm not exactly holding my breath for it to happen now.

MORE: Here's a link to the speech as prepared for delivery.

On the whole it's not as bad as the provocative excerpt of 'cowards' (though thatís not to say itís good by any stretch). Instead it is the usual mushy liberal line on this stuff....some how we will become less race conscious by being more race conscious.

I think the more pernicious, though less shocking statement in the speech is, "Simply put, to get to the heart of this country one must examine its racial soul." That is profoundly wrong. The soul of America is not race, it's freedom. America is an idea, a shared set of assumptions more than anything else. We are not loyal to clan, tribe, race, religion or even the land. We are the descendants of people who believed in an idea and welcomed (often imperfectly) those who shared that ideal.

Thatís not to say race isnít a very important element of America it clearly is. Thatís mainly because it's one of the most obvious ways in which the rhetoric of America did not match the reality. Yet no one who is remotely honest denies that astonishing progress has been made and continues to be made (see Obama, Barack and Holder, Eric for proof of this) despite the efforts of those who would live only in the past.

To say that race is the heart of this country is to insult not only America but to many, many blacks throughout history. Personally, I think some of the most remarkable people this country has ever produced are blacks who volunteered to fight and often die in the service this nation before they were recognized as full citizens. Imagine fighting in a segregated unit in WWII on the side of freedom and against a racist regime only to return to the Jim Crow south. Yet many did because they believed that some day America would do the right thing and they wanted to be a part of it, to contribute their share to the idea of America and make it possible.

Today we live in a world where students think they should get Aís for trying and yet here were men who were willing to die for a nation that did not embrace them as full and equal citizens. Their faith in America was simply incredible and it has been proven to have been well placed. Those men didnít fight for Ďblack Americaí or their race. Just like every other serviceman they fought for America the ideal, America the imperfect, America the possible. To say that America is at itís heart and soul about race seem and attempt to cheapen that. And that is unforgivable.

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posted by DrewM. at 04:02 PM

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