Eric Holder Speech Sparks Debate on Race

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sparked a debate over race relations this week with a speech in which he said the United States was a nation of cowards because most Americans prefer to avoid candid talk about race.

At a Justice Department commemoration of Black History month, Eric Holder, the nation's first African-American attorney general, had some strong words about the state of race relations in the United States.

"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race," he said.

Holder said while Americans have largely integrated the workplace during the week, blacks and whites still tend to segregate themselves on weekends.

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    Stephen J Cipolla - 2/25/2009

    Eric Holder has committed to more aggressive enforcement of the antitrust laws, the securities laws, the environmental laws. But, his words on race relations are more encouraging than anything he has said about what are essentially the legal regulatory functions of his office. His core function is to ensure the promises of the Constitution are kept and that those who break them are prosecuted. His speech is more relevant than the President's Philadelphia oration because it is far more grounded and practical. If we don't talk to one another because it's uncomfortable, then we are cowards. And, that cowardice is borne of fear, like racism itself. Many white Americans are afflicted with a fear of a long, deep and brutal history of oppression of Africans and indigenous Americans. Overcoming that fear of racial history is something that must be done on a personal level, if the political engagement on "race-related" matters is to have any real relevance to our daily lives at all.