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.’’
Copeland quit his post Monday after residents in Wolfeboro demanded his resignation. About 20 black people live in Wolfeboro, a town of 6,300 residents. The state is 94 percent white and 1 percent black. None of the town police department’s 12 full-time officers is Black.
For some, — like Sterling, Bundy and Copeland – it’s getting much easier to bring racist feelings to the forefront. And in Copeland’s case, he is unapologetic for disrespecting Obama, the nation’s first Black president. He would rather resign as police commissioner than to apologize to a Black man.
But what conservatives are really upset about is this: Holder’s speech about racial bigotry wasn’t designed as an isolated event: it’s part of a coordinated effort by the Obama administration to address race in America. The idea is to make people think – and perhaps change some attitudes.
Last week, for example, First Lady Michelle Obama, marking the 60th anniversary of the historic Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, said that racial prejudices are still prevalent in America and urged young people to help eradicate racism.
“This issue is so sensitive, it’s so complicated, so bound up with a painful history,” Mrs. Obama said. “No matter what you do, the point is to never be afraid to talk about these issues, particularly the issue of race, because even today, we still struggle to do that.”
This isn’t the last time Americans will hear about race in America from the Obamas – or from members of the administration. Expect to hear more about race, multiculturalism, and America’s rapidly-changing demographics in the months ahead.
This is about leadership – and I’m looking forward to it. What do you think?