COMMENTARY: Attorney General, First Lady Are Right On Race

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  • Conservatives constantly screaming for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to step down are up in arms about Holder’s recent outspoken views on racial bigotry.

    I’m proud of Holder for speaking up. Let the right-wingers continue to shout. Or just get over it.

    Holder, the first African-American U.S. Attorney General, delivered a powerful commencement address at Morgan State University in Baltimore last week and said entrenched discriminatory policies are more detrimental to people of color than racist outbursts.

    “Over the last few weeks and months, we’ve seen occasional, jarring reminders of the discrimination – and the isolated, repugnant, racist views – that in some places have yet to be overcome,” Holder said. “These incidents have received substantial media coverage. And they have rightly been condemned by leaders, commentators, and citizens from all backgrounds and walks of life. But we ought not find contentment in the fact that these high-profile expressions of outright bigotry seem atypical and were met with such swift condemnation,” he said.

    “Because if we focus solely on these incidents – on outlandish statements that capture national attention and spark outrage on Facebook and Twitter – we are likely to miss the more hidden, and more troubling, reality behind the headlines.”

    Although Holder didn’t mention any names, he took aim at racists who’ve dominating the news in recent weeks – people like Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy who have both uttered disparaging remarks toward African-Americans in recent weeks. Sterling was recorded telling a friend not to associate with Black people.

    Bundy told a reporter that Blacks were perhaps better off as slaves. “These outbursts of bigotry, while deplorable, are not the true markers of the struggle that still must be waged, or the work that still needs to be done – because the greatest threats do not announce themselves in screaming headlines,” Holder added. “They are more subtle. They cut deeper. And their terrible impact endures long after the headlines have faded and obvious, ignorant expressions of hatred have been marginalized.”

    Holder is right. There are far more insidious policies that are detrimental to African Americans – and he’s also correct that we must condemn racist behavior when it happens. Like New Hampshire Police Commissioner Robert Copeland, who’s 82 and white, and acknowledged in an email to his fellow police colleagues that he used a racial slur — the N-word – to describe Obama.

    ‘‘I believe I did use the ‘N’ word in reference to the current occupant of the Whitehouse,’’ Copeland said in the email to his fellow police commissioners. ‘‘For this, I do not apologize — he meets and exceeds my criteria for such.’’

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