The United States’ first Black Attorney General, Eric Holder is being criticized for a statement he made during a Black History month event at the Department of Justice this Wednesday:
“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been and we — I believe continue to be in too many ways essentially a nation of cowards.” He said to department of Justice employees, “certain subjects are off-limits and to explore them risks at best embarrassment and at worst the questioning of one’s character.”
As an educator who works with students of all ages, I did not find Holder’s statements to be very controversial at all. I often encounter socialized communication blocks that prevent teenagers and adults from engaging in open, honest discussion. Dr. Beverly Tatum addresses this epidemic reluctance to discuss race in her book, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria. Tatum believes that many white Americans are discouraged from discussing race at early ages, out of fear of saying something inappropriate or being perceived as racist. Effectively, they are hushed by their parents and peers, instead of encouraged to speak their minds with sincerity. Likewise, many African Americans keep their opinions to themselves, opting to discuss race at home, church or the barbershop rather than an integrated forum – enter Attorney General Eric Holder. During his Black History month address, he seemed to be acknowledging America’s obvious unwillingness to talk race. However, his word choice suggests that this lack of honest dialogue is a symptom of cowardice. Is this a harsh conclusion?
“Holder doesn’t want an honest dialogue about race. In the Age of [President] Obama, ‘talking enough with each other about race’ means the rest of us shutting up while being subjected to lectures about our insensitivity and insufficient integration on the weekends,” conservative blogger Michelle Malkin wrote.
Stephan Tawney, writing on the American Pundit blog, said a glimpse at the national political landscape — namely the country’s first black president — suggests otherwise. “Our attorney general is black, both major parties are led by black men, the president is black,” he wrote. “Last month, the nation officially honored Martin Luther King Jr. as it does every year, and Holder is speaking during Black History Month. And yet we’re apparently a ‘nation of cowards’ on race.”
A reader on the liberal Huffington Post Web site wrote: “How can you read Mr. Holder’s comments and immediately decide that he is wrong and should apologize? You are either disillusioned from the real world or caught up in some fantasy to which you believe there is no problem with racism in this country.”
What do you think? When’s the last time you had an honest, open discussion about race with an American? (this post pulls some quores from Cnn.com – read more here)