There has been plenty of ink spilled (and hot air vented) on Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent comment that Americans are “essentially a nation of cowards” when it comes to talking about race. I will avoid spilling much more.
Holder was giving a speech (read the whole thing here, or watch it here) to his colleagues at the Department of Justice in which he encouraged them, and exhorted Americans, to use African American History Month as an opportunity to address enduring social segregation, which contributes to a timid, simplistic racial dialog. Holder’s forthright description was met with shocked and horrified responses to his choice of words, responses which presumably represent precisely the kind of timidity and faux civility Holder was criticizing.
But perhaps of more interest than the wounded pride of columnists and talking heads are Holder’s comments on the transformative effects of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and his understanding of the connection between the black freedom movement and other civil rights struggles:
In addition, the other major social movements of the latter half of the twentieth century- feminism, the nation’s treatment of other minority groups, even the anti-war effort- were all tied in some way to the spirit that was set free by the quest for African American equality. Those other movements may have occurred in the absence of the civil rights struggle but the fight for black equality came first and helped to shape the way in which other groups of people came to think of themselves and to raise their desire for equal treatment. Further, many of the tactics that were used by these other groups were developed in the civil rights movement.
Holder should come to our conference. (By the way, if you want to know whether or not Obama’s election means we are living in a “post-racial” nation, take a look at some of the comments on this video of Michael Eric Dyson’s response to Holder’s statement.)