I finally got a chance to read Eric Holder’s “nation of cowards” speech. Contrary to popular opinion Mr. Holder showed a fine sense of the history of the Civil Rights movement (it was down near the bottom, while his “cowards remark was near the beginning, so readers could be forgiven for not noticing Mr. Holder’s actual remarks). I have been struck by something, though. Mr. Holder suggested that we do not now have a quality discussion about race. The comments I have heard about his speech certainly validate that proposition. People have said it is not appropriate for the Attorney General to make these remarks. People have complained about the Clinton administration record on the discussion of race. Tony Norman called Mr. Holder’s remarks “hamfisted”. Chad Hermann complained that Mr. Holder did not give credit to Union Soldiers who died to free his ancestors or to civil rights pioneers (except that Mr. Holder did, but not early enough in his speech to suit Mr. Hermann, who chose to ignore that he had done it). All this commentary on how Mr. Holder spoke, but not much on what he said.
Except for Michelle Norris on Meet the Press, who talked about how there are two dialogues on race in America. The white dialogue, as I mentioned above, is very focused on how race is no longer an issue. African Americans have to take responsibility for themselves now, white America has given them an education and access to jobs, and African America doesn’t try hard enough. Except that the education has been about as low quality as they come, and the jobs are not accessible by bus and rarely open to African Americans anyway. I believe she said the African American dialogue is much more of how some African Americans have gotten ahead, a few have succeeded, but most are still struggling. The struggle for civil rights is far from over, but white America no longer wants to talk about it.