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Ear to the Ground

Attorney General: On Race, America Is ‘a Nation of Cowards’

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Posted on Feb 18, 2009
Eric Holder
change.gov

Eric Holder, before his confirmation as attorney general.

Speaking at a Justice Department event in honor of Black History Month, the first black attorney general, appointed by the first black president, acknowledged that America has made progress but warned that “in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.” His full remarks, after the jump.

Remarks as prepared for delivery by Attorney General Eric Holder at the Department of Justice African-American History Month program:

Every year, in February, we attempt to recognize and to appreciate black history. It is a worthwhile endeavor for the contributions of African Americans to this great nation are numerous and significant. Even as we fight a war against terrorism, deal with the reality of electing an African American as our President for the first time and deal with the other significant issues of the day, the need to confront our racial past, and our racial present, and to understand the history of African people in this country, endures. One cannot truly understand America without understanding the historical experience of black people in this nation. Simply put, to get to the heart of this country one must examine its racial soul.

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. It is an issue we have never been at ease with and given our nation’s history this is in some ways understandable. And yet, if we are to make progress in this area we must feel comfortable enough with one another, and tolerant enough of each other, to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us. But we must do more—and we in this room bear a special responsibility. Through its work and through its example this Department of Justice, as long as I am here, must—and will—lead the nation to the “new birth of freedom” so long ago promised by our greatest President. This is our duty and our solemn obligation.

We commemorated five years ago, the 50th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. And though the world in which we now live is fundamentally different than that which existed then, this nation has still not come to grips with its racial past nor has it been willing to contemplate, in a truly meaningful way, the diverse future it is fated to have. To our detriment, this is typical of the way in which this nation deals with issues of race. And so I would suggest that we use February of every year to not only commemorate black history but also to foster a period of dialogue among the races. This is admittedly an artificial device to generate discussion that should come more naturally, but our history is such that we must find ways to force ourselves to confront that which we have become expert at avoiding.

As a nation we have done a pretty good job in melding the races in the workplace. We work with one another, lunch together and, when the event is at the workplace during work hours or shortly thereafter, we socialize with one another fairly well, irrespective of race. And yet even this interaction operates within certain limitations. We know, by “American instinct” and by learned behavior, that certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks, at best embarrassment, and, at worst, the questioning of one’s character. And outside the workplace the situation is even more bleak in that there is almost no significant interaction between us. On Saturdays and Sundays America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some fifty years ago. This is truly sad. Given all that we as a nation went through during the civil rights struggle it is hard for me to accept that the result of those efforts was to create an America that is more prosperous, more positively race conscious and yet is voluntarily socially segregated.

As a nation we should use Black History month as a means to deal with this continuing problem. By creating what will admittedly be, at first, artificial opportunities to engage one another we can hasten the day when the dream of individual, character based, acceptance can actually be realized. To respect one another we must have a basic understanding of one another. And so we should use events such as this to not only learn more about the facts of black history but also to learn more about each other. This will be, at first, a process that is both awkward and painful but the rewards are potentially great. The alternative is to allow to continue the polite, restrained mixing that now passes as meaningful interaction but that accomplishes little. Imagine if you will situations where people—regardless of their skin color—could confront racial issues freely and without fear. The potential of this country, that is becoming increasingly diverse, would be greatly enhanced. I fear however, that we are taking steps that, rather than advancing us as a nation are actually dividing us even further. We still speak too much of “them” and not “us”. There can, for instance, be very legitimate debate about the question of affirmative action. This debate can, and should, be nuanced, principled and spirited. But the conversation that we now engage in as a nation on this and other racial subjects is too often simplistic and left to those on the extremes who are not hesitant to use these issues to advance nothing more than their own, narrow self interest. Our history has demonstrated that the vast majority of Americans are uncomfortable with, and would like to not have to deal with, racial matters and that is why those, black or white, elected or self-appointed, who promise relief in easy, quick solutions, no matter how divisive, are embraced. We are then free to retreat to our race protected cocoons where much is comfortable and where progress is not really made. If we allow this attitude to persist in the face of the most significant demographic changes that this nation has ever confronted—and remember, there will be no majority race in America in about fifty years—the coming diversity that could be such a powerful, positive force will, instead, become a reason for stagnation and polarization. We cannot allow this to happen and one way to prevent such an unwelcome outcome is to engage one another more routinely—and to do so now.

As I indicated before, the artificial device that is Black History month is a perfect vehicle for the beginnings of such a dialogue. And so I urge all of you to use the opportunity of this month to talk with your friends and co-workers on the other side of the divide about racial matters. In this way we can hasten the day when we truly become one America.

It is also clear that if we are to better understand one another the study of black history is essential because the history of black America and the history of this nation are inextricably tied to each other. It is for this reason that the study of black history is important to everyone—black or white. For example, the history of the United States in the nineteenth century revolves around a resolution of the question of how America was going to deal with its black inhabitants. The great debates of that era and the war that was ultimately fought are all centered around the issue of, initially, slavery and then the reconstruction of the vanquished region. A dominant domestic issue throughout the twentieth century was, again, America’s treatment of its black citizens. The civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s changed America in truly fundamental ways. Americans of all colors were forced to examine basic beliefs and long held views. Even so, most people, who are not conversant with history, still do not really comprehend the way in which that movement transformed America. In racial terms the country that existed before the civil rights struggle is almost unrecognizable to us today. Separate public facilities, separate entrances, poll taxes, legal discrimination, forced labor, in essence an American apartheid, all were part of an America that the movement destroyed. To attend her state’s taxpayer supported college in 1963 my late sister in law had to be escorted to class by United States Marshals and past the state’s governor, George Wallace. That frightening reality seems almost unthinkable to us now. The civil rights movement made America, if not perfect, better.

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.

And today the link between the black experience and this country is still evident. While the problems that continue to afflict the black community may be more severe, they are an indication of where the rest of the nation may be if corrective measures are not taken. Our inner cities are still too conversant with crime but the level of fear generated by that crime, now found in once quiet, and now electronically padlocked suburbs is alarming and further demonstrates that our past, present and future are linked. It is not safe for this nation to assume that the unaddressed social problems in the poorest parts of our country can be isolated and will not ultimately affect the larger society.

Black history is extremely important because it is American history. Given this, it is in some ways sad that there is a need for a black history month. Though we are all enlarged by our study and knowledge of the roles played by blacks in American history, and though there is a crying need for all of us to know and acknowledge the contributions of black America, a black history month is a testament to the problem that has afflicted blacks throughout our stay in this country. Black history is given a separate, and clearly not equal, treatment by our society in general and by our educational institutions in particular. As a former American history major I am struck by the fact that such a major part of our national story has been divorced from the whole. In law, culture, science, athletics, industry and other fields, knowledge of the roles played by blacks is critical to an understanding of the American experiment. For too long we have been too willing to segregate the study of black history. There is clearly a need at present for a device that focuses the attention of the country on the study of the history of its black citizens. But we must endeavor to integrate black history into our culture and into our curriculums in ways in which it has never occurred before so that the study of black history, and a recognition of the contributions of black Americans, become commonplace. Until that time, Black History Month must remain an important, vital concept. But we have to recognize that until black history is included in the standard curriculum in our schools and becomes a regular part of all our lives, it will be viewed as a novelty, relatively unimportant and not as weighty as so called “real” American history.

I, like many in my generation, have been fortunate in my life and have had a great number of wonderful opportunities. Some may consider me to be a part of black history. But we do a great disservice to the concept of black history recognition if we fail to understand that any success that I have had, cannot be viewed in isolation. I stood, and stand, on the shoulders of many other black Americans. Admittedly, the identities of some of these people, through the passage of time, have become lost to us—the men, and women, who labored long in fields, who were later legally and systemically discriminated against, who were lynched by the hundreds in the century just past and those others who have been too long denied the fruits of our great American culture. The names of too many of these people, these heroes and heroines, are lost to us. But the names of others of these people should strike a resonant chord in the historical ear of all in our nation: Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Walter White, Langston Hughes, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, Charles Drew, Paul Robeson, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Vivian Malone, Rosa Parks, Marion Anderson, Emmit Till. These are just some of the people who should be generally recognized and are just some of the people to whom all of us, black and white, owe such a debt of gratitude. It is on their broad shoulders that I stand as I hope that others will some day stand on my more narrow ones.

Black history is a subject worthy of study by all our nation’s people. Blacks have played a unique, productive role in the development of America. Perhaps the greatest strength of the United States is the diversity of its people and to truly understand this country one must have knowledge of its constituent parts. But an unstudied, not discussed and ultimately misunderstood diversity can become a divisive force. An appreciation of the unique black past, acquired through the study of black history, will help lead to understanding and true compassion in the present, where it is still so sorely needed, and to a future where all of our people are truly valued.

Thank you.

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By Eelle, February 21, 2009 at 3:50 pm Link to this comment
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There are certainly more than One race in this world.
What happened to “birds of a feather flock together”?

It is only in one’s mind that you will not judge others on racial issues.  How in the world can you not look at the differences first (if you have eyes to see) and then go about ignoring those differences? Even if you are of the same race; you meet someone and first thing you do is try to identify them. You look at their body, clothes, tatoos, eyes, teeth.  You look for identifing features.
I’m sorry, but there will never be a time when we animals with larger brains will be able to separate our differences and just be the same.  We can try to treat individual people with respect, just as we were taught.

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By godistwaddle, February 21, 2009 at 2:12 pm Link to this comment

It is wrong to judge people by things they cannot change:  skin color, handedness, sexual orientation. It is quite right, however, to judge people by things they could change.  Republicans, for example, choose to be subhuman and should be treated as such.

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By ApprxAm, February 21, 2009 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment

I’m not sure exactly what Mr. Holder is trying to do.  It may be his intent to spark conversation or maybe something else which might be markedly worse. If he thinks that Americans are cowards when it comes to the “talking” about race honestly, then he’s looking at it from purely idealized perspective.  Talking don’t always work and as one can see from some these conversation in this very blog, Liberal as it may be, there are far too many emotional sentiments spilling on the floor, a general fatigue about the subject and, quite simply, there those who don’t give a f*ck.

I think it best that Mr. Holder prosecute federal law, protect Americans from terrorist and leave the “race” question to those who don’t have to enforce the “law of the land” to everyone equally, White, Black, Latino, Asian, Indian and other. Mr. Attorney-General…...SHUT UP, MAN.  You’re not helping, believe me.

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By KDelphi, February 20, 2009 at 1:20 pm Link to this comment

Class is our biggest problem today.

“In general the United States has some of the highest relative poverty rates among industrialized countries, reflecting both the high median income and high degree of inequality. In terms of pre-transfer absolute poverty rates, in 2000 the United States ranked tenth among sixteen developed countries, though it should be noted that 2000 was a ‘trough’ year and subsequently absolute poverty rates have increased. The US does considerably worse in post-transfer absolute poverty rates.”

“Those under the age of 18 were the most likely to be impoverished. In 2006 the poverty rate for minors in the United States was the highest in the industrialized world, with 21.9% of all minors and 30% of African American minors living below the poverty threshold. Moreover, the standard of living for those in the bottom 10% was lower in the U.S. than other developed nations except the United Kingdom, which has the lowest standard of living for impoverished children in the developed world. According to a 2008 report released by the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, on average, rates of child poverty are persistently higher in rural parts of the country relative to suburban areas and share similar rates with many central cities.”


The US has 17% of people living below median incone, while Denmark has 6%.

U.S. Census Bureau data show that the poverty rate for African-Americans under the age of 18 ranged throughout the 1980s between 42.3 and 47.6 percent. Beginning in 1992, the rate began to decline from 46.6 percent, and reached a low of 30.2 percent in 2001. The rate increased the next two years—to 32.3 percent in 2002 and to 34.1 percent in 2003—then declined half a percentage point, to 33.6 percent, in 2004.

http://mediamatters.org/items/200602220011

Are these stats ok with the “Left”??

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By Blackspeare, February 20, 2009 at 8:25 am Link to this comment

This reminds me of the old saying, “give an inch and they’ll take a mile, give an arm and they’ll take a leg.”  No one wants a piece of the pie anymore, they want the whole thing!  Just look at the US economic mess, it was all based on make as much as you can as fast as you can essentially greed.  Now we have Eric Holder who has turned ethnicity into racist rapacity.

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By tfroknc, February 20, 2009 at 7:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How about, if people appreciate peoples differences.especially their own differences. diversity is all the ‘seperate’ races. I think this world would be a little boring if everybody looked the same and followed the same ideas. along with religion. music, etc. The key is to embrace the diffrences. It sounds like the a.g. is trying to remove that. diffrences has been a cause for conflicts. but it doesn’t have to be.This world won’t be happy until everybody has 2.1 cars 1.8 kids all the same skintone the same education. etc. political correctness is goofy.

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By Thomas Taylor, February 20, 2009 at 6:34 am Link to this comment
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Race is an issue that has been dodged by WASP’s for many years.  Black History is important, but not as important as black people realizing that they have an obligation to themselves and society to integrate, get educated, and work.  Nobody owes anybody anything.  The difference between my ancestors and theirs is that mine came on a boat voluntarily, but that is History, not current reality.  Get over it and get on with it or you will forever be at the mercy of quotas, “help” programs, and other crutches that steal your individual chances to be self dependent.

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By KDelphi, February 20, 2009 at 12:13 am Link to this comment

There are more than two races of people in the uS…

I think that the concept of a “melting pot” is erroneous.

Cultural diversity is a better concept.

I also think that this next generation, not alive to see the problems of the 60s and 70s will be far better at dealing with the issues.

But it is NOT ‘the same as 50 yrs ago”.

The US was founded on racism, as well as class divisions. Sure white, rich MEN are in power—-but that leaves out more than Af Ams—. Even bringing up class has become a political hot potato.

But, I guess the Democrats have “dealt with race issues”...

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By tfromnc, February 19, 2009 at 6:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Raceism? Do you mean identifying with someone by their ethnicity. Why is that a problem ? I think what Holder and others still in the 60’s are refering to is the shame, guilt and resentment associated with that subject.Holder said we were a ‘Melting pot’ and becoming more ‘diverse’. which is it? you can’t be diverse if you aren’t different.

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By Doug Higginbotham, February 19, 2009 at 5:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Man, I am so sorry I didn’t invite you over to the BBQ on the patio last summer.  We could have sat down, had a couple of beers and really worked on some of these issues you are talking about. Meanwhile, the wives could have had some great dialog in the kitchen while the kids played together in the yard… NOT!

First of all, I don’t know you and don’t want to get know you. What I would really appreciate is you giving your house a new coat of paint, regular mows of the yard along with some weed killer before they spread over here. Teach your kids to turn down the subwoofer before they pull into the driveway in the middle of the night.
Understand that a 3 car garage was intended to house your vehicles, not a 3 year inventory of yard sale goods leaving the cars and boat sitting in the side yard. YOU bought the dog so pick up the droppings. And buy a real trash can - your white plastic kitchen bags blow down the block every collection day.

Cowardice, racism and ethniticity has nothing to do with it! It’s common courtesy!  This could have been an open letter to some of my knucklehead neighbors -black, white, hispanic, middle eastern or whatever!  So until YOU get with the program, I will continue my preference of NOT having any social commentary. Besides, your wife is ugly and can’t cook, my dogs have better manners that your children, and you’re the laziest man on the planet.

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By NYCartist, February 19, 2009 at 2:04 pm Link to this comment

I think the idea of people discussing racism is a good one.  It should be an all year round concept:looking at our own racism, the concept of white privilege.  What places would be good to have the discussions?

WBAI 99.5FM, the NYC Pacifica Network station often has call in shows that deal with various aspects of racism.  http://www.wbai.org  Do you know the Pacifica Network?  http://www.pacifica.org  WBAI was the original home studio of “DemocracyNow”, and of course, it’s there weekdays.

How many people have interaction with people of other colors, ethnic, religious groups?  How many of us live in integrated housing?  Went to integrated schools, on any level between preschool and college/grad school?  How many people have/had been treated by a doctor of dentist, whether you, the reader, are African-American, white or Jew.  (I’m a Jew.)

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By MaryT63, February 19, 2009 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This morning on “morning joe”, a panel of four white men was discussing and dissing Holder and his ‘nation of cowards’ remark.
That picture was exactly what Holder was talking about - where were the minorities on that panel, where was the debate, where were the men and women who could identify with what Holder was talking about.  Those four panel members where defensive, arrogant and derogatory.

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By Elaine Robinson, February 19, 2009 at 12:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There should NOT be any racism. No-one should be judged on their colour of skin. We need to be more accepting of others. All is equal and should be treated the same as BEINGS.

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By samosamo, February 19, 2009 at 11:50 am Link to this comment

I want to submit to holder that right now I see far too many cowards in our government that are unwilling for whatever reasons to go after these financial terrorists that still keep attacking the people of this country and the world like robbery and theft are accepted business practices. Right now, Switzerland’s banks have decided to come off their secrecy policies to provide information on who is hiding their money in swiss banks in order NOT to pay taxes here in the US. Hopefully holder, you will have some ammunition to go after these tax dodgers and if has been costing the US around $100,000,000,000.00 a year for these creeps to make the real taxpayers that should add a little to some of the fantasically huge amount of money that has been stolen from the american people. Here is the link to that story:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29268064/

And, what are you going to do about the latest on financiers taking people’s money and in this case running off to parts unknown? Isn’t it way past time to stop letting these finanical wizzes have their own way, no regulation, no tranparency even when they are being investigated. Texas financier R. Allen Stanford is the latest and gone is the money and his whereabouts are unknown, just a bit too convenient too me. His company was under investigation and he must have timed it just right to skip and leave his investors with ashes and dust. Even though his is just an $8,000,000,000.00 debacle instead of madoff’s $50,000,000,000.00 debacle this is beoming too common. Do something. Here’s the link to stanford’s crap:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29277787/

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By Folktruther, February 19, 2009 at 10:57 am Link to this comment

It is quite true, as Holder says, that racism in the US needs urgently to be addressed openly.  But this racism is not limited to African-Americans.

The American White ruling class as a form of class colaberation has allied with White working and professional class members to use racism as a force for power structure unity.  The ideological glue that has united White Americans across class boundaries throughout history has been racism.

The Declaration of Independance and Constitution are both racist documents.  The implicit premise ‘All WHITE men are craated equal’ is not stated openly, but that is what is opervatively meant.  Indians were not mentioned in either document as being equal, and African-Americans were slaves, counted only as three fifths of a person in the constitution.

US history is a racist history.  The US stole half of Mexico from Latinos, imprisoned Japanese citizens in concentration camps, passed legislation limiting most immigration to Europe, and currently declared a war against dark-skinned Muslims.

And in wars massacreing hundreds of thousands and millions of Phillipene, Korean, Vienamese, and Iraqi people, and exploiting and making refugees of millions more.  Racism, and the bloodshed that accompanied it, helped form America, and the bigotry still lives in our anti-foreigner ideology in immigration, crime and war.

But it is un-Patriotic to say so in a simple concise way.  Doing so subverts the ideological legitimacy of the American power system.  So to cover it up both Consevatives and pseudo-Progressives go on and on about the Constitution, Democracy and Freedom, without mentioning for whom these attributes were created..

Holder’s sppech is in this tradition, focusing on African-American racism, which, it is true,  historically has been horrible, to help him oppress Muslims in the War On Terrorism.  And this bigotry against Muslims is now instilled by the Zionist power structure to the interest of Israel, not the US.

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By felicity, February 19, 2009 at 9:32 am Link to this comment

On the Sunday following 9/11 we were invited to attend an afternoon of conversation, speeches and Middle Eastern foods at a local Muslim Center.

Hundreds of us showed up crowding the Center beyond capacity. We stood for hours in sweltering heat listening to speeches given by American people from the Middle and Far East.  We represented all ages, races and religious persuasions.

The last speaker at the event said in closing that as he looked out at our sea of black, white, yellow, brown faces, for the first time in the 30 years he had lived in America he finally knew what it was to be an American.

When we realize that the essence of our nation is its racial and religious diversity, we will appreciate how privileged we truly are to be the first peoples to try this unique experiment.

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By Purple Girl, February 19, 2009 at 7:36 am Link to this comment

Thankfully Racist are a dying breed.Not just White Racists, but racists of every color. Being 45, I am far less racist (afraid) than my mother. My daughter even more oblivious to any concerns about ‘areas to avoid because you are white’.
Jess Jackson showed racism comes in all colors, I cheered his son for his disavowment of his statements.
Having lived in CA for several years, I came to realize Asian are prejudice against other Asian groups- I was astounded.
It’s good to know our history so not to repeat it, but we can not get so distracted by it we fail to see the road ahead.
After 30 yrs- all my voting years- being ashamed and dismayed by the actions taken by our gov’t and portions of our people.. I have never been as Proud when We elected our first Bi-racial, Multicultural president. Let’s be honest, We were not even willing to elect a Greek in ‘88. Not only does our current president have a funny name, his middle name is the same as the Dictator we just toppled and was executed. talk about being about to seperate the Forrest from the trees.
Unfortunately there are many who want to keep US ignorant and stupid- the NYP recent ‘cartoon’ not only depicted Racism, possible Sexism, but out right violence against either or both minorities. Not to mention the criminality of suggesting Assasination of a Public Official. maybe Murdock needs to return to the Outback, far away from the civilized World. Perhaps some Wildlife might find him to be a tasty morsel. Would he dare Print a cartoon about the recent fires? The 200 lives lost, the loss of wildlife and the land he hold dear? I thinnk not. Murdock has no concept of American Humor or our values, it’s time he’s shoved off for an Exiled ‘Walk about’!

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By Sepharad, February 19, 2009 at 12:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Attorney General is right: as long as we still segregate black history, or women’s history, or any other kind of gender-ethnic-race history from our country’s overall narrative, we’ll still be “segregated” in the sense that American history will belong to some but not others. In the same way, however, specialty courses initiated with the best of intentions, ironically by some of the most enlightened and well-funded schools—women’s
studies, black studies, Native American studies, Hispanic American studies, Asian American studies etc.—play their role in defining us as forever distinct. If we add Anglo-Saxon studies, Scots-Irish studies, German American studies, Portuguese American, Franco-American, Moslem-American, Jewish American studies etc etc it would at least be consistent, but still silly, as if we’re only playing at being Americans and when we go back to reality we are identified with our particular ethnicity and culture and cease to be Americans.

Perhaps this quaint type of segregated identities persists because there is an ethnic-America culture that makes grants and other monies available to people and institutions depending on which ethnic group can compete in and win the “we’re neediest” or “we’re the most interesting” sweepstakes.

However, when we write our nation’s history books, they need to start much earlier than Valley Forge and include Native Americans where they belong—first—and need to include the journeys parts of the country underwent before becoming part of the U.S. French, British and Spaniards were all jousting for empire before and during the American Revolution. Empire seekers and immigrants all should be treated in as much detail and as part of American history as we presently accord the Mayflower and other British pilgrims,  the Founders, the Lincolns, etc.

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By Agenda?, February 18, 2009 at 10:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We just heavily criticized the last administration for their idealogical influence on the Justice Dept. and now, front and center, our new guy is announcing his AGENDA with his proclamation that we are a “nation of cowards” for “not talking enough with each other about race.”  Apparently, he’s determined to bring race front and center in his dialogue and role as AG. How about we transcend race like Presdient Obama and stop with the name calling and polarizing language and talk about race in terms of humanity and justice for all and not one race vs. another.  Amen.

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By Butforthose, February 18, 2009 at 10:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Tell those who were brutalized in Selma that they are cowards…

Tell those that died taking part in the freedom rides they were cowards…

Tell those that continued to march while being pummeled by a water cannon they are cowards…

Tell me what a man standing behind a podium casting stones at those he paints with a broad brush would know about cowardice… except for that which he exhibits by pointing a finger in contempt instead of extending a hand in friendship.

This man should be the first casualty to fall from the Obama administration as a victim of his own mouth.

Would he be tolerated with these comments if he were white?

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By Kelly, February 18, 2009 at 10:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Google image search the terms “george bush” & “monkey”.  Comparing white people to monkeys is ok though, right?

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By Suzie, February 18, 2009 at 10:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Cowardly, lack of courage, denial or fear, there are many names for our lack of awareness on this issue.  I’m white and lived in New Orleans during Katrina.  Until Obama was elected I thought our country missed the boat discussing racism.  No pun intended.  Say it was socio-economic all you want, there is NO way we would have let white people left to die on an overpass and the convention center.  It’s about time we talked about covert and overt racism; it’s all over the world.  It’s time to increase a thousandfold our awareness, acceptance and consciousness the I in I Am, the Me in We means All are light beings no matter what color.

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By Austin, February 18, 2009 at 10:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So the general says all races should use Black History Month as a time to confront the struggles between blacks and whites? What about people of Jewish, Asian, Sub-Asian, and Middle Eastern decent?
I wonder if the General thinks a black president would have been elected 50 years ago? Surely racism is equally accepted outside the workplace, as the General suggests. The truth in this is clearly embodied in who we decided to elect as our present Commander in Chief?
Racism does still exist, but how the General chooses to confront it is not just to anyone. It is quite clear that much progress has been made. To pretend that America is somewhat unchanged from 50 years ago only stirs up anger and resentment. I am not black, and so i do not know what it feels like to be negatively identified as such. I do know what it feel like to be called a “cracker” or to have people assume that I and my friends are racist soley because of where we come from or that we are middle class white americans. Pretending that Americans are cowards in confronting racial issues? That seems a lot like people voting for someone based soley on race. Some Americans are cowards, and some Americans do base their political loyalty soley on race or heritage. However, the general is simply inncorrect in his claims that Americans as a whole are cowards concerning racial issues. We are a planet of different cultures. We must identify ourselves as such and seek to exist mutually. While I did not vote for Obama (I’m Libertarian.. and didn’t vote for McCain either, and yes I did vote) I recognize that his election did signify a victory over the hate that had gripped our republic for so many generations. Although that struggle is not over, we must broaden our debate and have an optimistic view of the present condition; of what we have accomplished so far and what we can still accomplish. Those who seek a pessimistic view will only prolong “voluntary segrigation” and reopen wounds that have almost healed.

A note on seggrigation: it can take hundreds of years to inntegrate an oppressed society. Demographics show that even with equall opportunity in the workplace, much wealth is dependent on the wealth of one’s ancestors. Whites are generally more wealthy in part because their parents were. Once several generations have past and all individuals have become fully integrated in society on an equall level, that seggragaion in housing and demographics will be fully accomplished. Also, sometimes people of different backgrounds will seek to be surrounded by simmilar people. I am living in Korea at the moment and do not yet speak Korean. When I see an American, I like to have a conversation. this is not because I am a racist, but because I like to communicate with someone familiar with my own culture.

p.s. Sorry about spelling im in a rush and do not have time to fully edit

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By Margaret Currey, February 18, 2009 at 9:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You know if the man was not described as an “African American”  I would not know it I mean the guy is as white as I am and I am a white person who happens to have Medetarrian color skin which some people would call olive. 

So this country is not just populated by african americans but by people who happen to have some african blood and that might cover a lot of people, got to get rid of the label.

But it also seems to me that a lot of bright skinned people make into politics and then declare that they are African American.

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By Pat Garret, February 18, 2009 at 8:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In a country full of the bravest men on earth.
Soft twinky ass politicians should not throw around words like coward so easly. Get your flabby ass out of your hot tub pick up a gun and go to Iraq. bitch

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By Fadel Abdallah, February 18, 2009 at 7:57 pm Link to this comment

I would agree with the Attorney General that “America is a nation of cowards.” But I would like to add to that that it’s been for long time a nation of cowards hiding behind their weapons of mass destruction!

I would further ask the question, “Does the Attorney General include himself and his ethnic group in this cowardliness?” If he does, then he’s fair enough; if not then his statement will further complicate the race issue in this multi-racial country! If he means only white America, then he is wrong, because it takes two parties to tango! I mean there would not have been abuse by the whites if it wasn’t for the blacks who accepted this abuse for a long time without mass revolt to correct the situation!

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By reason, February 18, 2009 at 7:11 pm Link to this comment

Eric Holders comment did little to improve the chances open and unbiased dicussion of racial issues. Racism is not peculiar to the white race only. Racism is wrong no matter who participates in its practice. As long as there are those who cannot hear or see the value of others because the skin color of others is not to their liking we will have “Racism”!
*It is possible, he didn’t mean to be insulting to any particular race but was simply making a general comment about our past.

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