- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2009



One can only surmise that Eric Holder woke up last Wednesday believing it was Nov. 3, 2008. That is the only credible explanation for his comment that America is “a nation of cowards” when it came to talking about race. No one would claim that race isn’t still a factor in America, as it is in most multi-ethnic countries, but to say that Americans aren’t willing to talk about it is ludicrous. There has been ample - and we dare say an inordinate - amount of discussion about the nation’s current state of race relations, especially for the two years since Barack Obama announced his presidential candidacy (See the mailbox letters for some reader views on Mr. Holder’s comments).

His remarks at a Black History Month event at the Justice Department belied the reality of the America after Nov. 4, 2008, which had its first black president and, in Mr. Holder’s own case, its first black attorney general.

If Mr. Holder were to pick up a newspaper or watch television newscasts, he’d see a raging discussion about the racial implications of the New York Post’s brain-dead cartoon depicting a dead chimpanzee shot by police (based on an actual incident), with one of the two cops in the cartoon stating, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus.” The intention may have been simply to suggest that the bill wasn’t written by geniuses, but there is little ignorance of the fact that black people in America have been referred to negatively as monkeys (the late Monday Night Football announcer, Howard Cosell, got into a lot of trouble in 1983 for remarking, “Look at that little monkey go,” as Washington Redskins wide receiver Alvin Garrett scored a touchdown; Cosell was known to refer to every young athlete as a little monkey, but it struck a nerve with black Americans as racist regardless of the intent). The embers haven’t extinguished from the 2007 Jena Six case stemming from a noose hung on a tree at the local high school in Jena, La., that infuriated black residents and culminated in the violent beating of a white student by six black students. Early last year, Golfweek Magazine depicted a noose on its cover as a graphic for an article about an announcer who jokingly said competitors should consider lynching Tiger Woods, leading to a month-long discussion about racism in golf. There have been discussions about whether President Obama is black enough, and racial views of the black church after numerous sermons by the president’s former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. HBO is running a special on white Americans who are upset about the racial advancements in America stemming from President Obama’s election.

There is plenty of discussion about race in America, and Eric Holder probably knows that. He said he was referring to the politicization of the Justice Department’s civil rights division under the administration of President Bush, and its focus on voter fraud cases rather than voting rights cases. That’s an issue maybe worth debating, but next time Attorney General Holder should just say that.

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