I’ll admit that Attorney General Eric Holder was perhaps the last person I would have pegged to make the comments that “when it comes to race, America has been a nation of cowards,” because his career has been marked by low-key strategies.
However, he was precisely correct. His critics are proving the merit of his argument.
The point is the same that President Obama made during his speech in Philadelphia — that the major reason our racial problems continue to fester is that we refuse to discuss them.
The primary means for that refusal has been to exclude African-Americans from positions of power and influence, or to insist on rigid “gag” rules as a condition for stature.
Well, that’s not going to work anymore. The flip analysis that ‘race no longer mattered” has given way to New York Post cartoons starring chimpanzees and a new Confederacy of secessionist governors planning to reject stimulus spending.
As any African-American in a responsible position can testify, every action they take is viewed through a prism of race.
White privilege, as defined by the Clinton initiative on race, allows whites to largely avoid the issue.
Holder understands that doing his job will require confronting those issues, from the allocation of stimulus spending to the disposition of police brutality cases.
One of the goals of the dialogue he encouraged during Black History Month is to foster the understanding that the inability to talk about race is at the heart of our national inability to solve other great issues like health care, the aging of our population, the fairness of our economy.
Cowards resist tackling the tough issues. That’s why it will still be a decade before a Museum of African-American History is erected on the mall and why, in most cities and schools, African-American history is an afterthought.