The first black Attorney General of the US,Eric Holder,has said the country despite advances essentially remains a nation of cowards on racial issues,with most Americans avoiding candid discussions on matters of race.
“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot,in things racial we have always been and we,I believe,continue to be,in too many ways,essentially a nation of cowards,” Holder said in his speech at Justice Department on the occasion of Black History Month.
“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 things racial,” he said.
“It is an issue that we have never been at ease with,and given our nation’s history,this is in some ways understandable,” he said.
The month of February is observed as Black History Month.
Holder’s comment immediately generated heated debate in the US media,specially the television news channels.
Holder said one cannot 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,he observed.
“Even as we fight a war against terrorism,deal with the reality of electing an African-American for the first time as the President of the United States and deal with other significant issues of the day,the need to confront our racial past and to understand our racial present,and to understand the history of African people in this country — that all endures,” Holder said.
If America is to make progress in this area,people 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 the country,he said.
As a nation,Holder said the US has done a good job in melding the races in the workplace. “We work with one another; we lunch together; and when the event is at the workplace during work hours,such as this,or shortly thereafter,we socialise with one another fairly well,irrespective of race,” he said.
But this interaction operates within certain limitations,he argued. “We know,by American instinct and by learned behaviour,that certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks,at best,embarrassment and,at worst,the questioning of one’s character,” he said.