After having read and listened to the varied reactions to Attorney General Eric Holder’s remarks, I have come to the conclusion that in 2009, his remarks, as controversial as they may be, couldn’t have been more timely nor more revealing! Revealing of what you may ask? The remarks, less so than the reactions, further expose the need –the sore need for dialogue as well as action. While an ivy league professor chided and compared Mr. Holder’s talk on race relations to a school principal’s office counselling, others applauded him for the courage to speak out, and yet others called for nothing short of his resignation for being so ungrateful and abusive of his historical appointment as the first Black attorney general!
Maybe “a nation of cowards” was too strong a phrase, maybe a Black History Month event was not the place for the new attorney general to equivocate on his enforcement of policies and strategies for the Department of Justice, and so on and so forth. Then again, the flailing economy allows us no time to worry about “non-issues” like racial relations and getting along. Nevertheless, if not now, when? Can we afford not to continue to dialogue? Who knows what opportunities lay covered up in the silence of misunderstanding? The uncovering of the power, potential, and promise of President Barack Obama, the first non-White president of our great country, was the result of an unprecedented coming together of Americans of ALL colors. Yes, there’s more than just blacks and whites, people. So the first point of correction towards necessary dialogue and resultant action is that Mr. Holder did not address his statement to ONLY White people (because then that puts them on the defensive and rightly so!). I believe he was talking to all of us as Americans. Nobody is trying to legislate relationships; he was merely articulating, on that Black History Month platform, the need to come out of our silences, with courage.
There are yet many questions to be addressed: Why inner city schools continue to have outrageous drop out rates, why crack cocaine offenders received longer prison sentences than powder cocaine offenders, why a cartoonist and his editors would so insensitively make an analogy between the killing of a chimp with the shooting of the stimulus bill writer(s), why there is no special month for White history . . . . Just read the blogs and talk to your friends. You’ve heard some of these questions in the privacy and comfort of your inner circles. The answers may lie without those circles and in the comfort of those that seem so different from us. But the answers, if they must be uncovered, must be uncovered with honesty, respect, and courage. People must be willing to listen, talk, and listen again. Many of these questions may require an economic boost to happen first before they can be solved; many others require non-monetary solutions and cannot wait. Let the conversation continue. It’s already begun; we might as well continue it, and, as I said previously, with respect and a willingness to listen and understand. That’s where the courage is needed.