I’m glad Dayo Olopade wrote about Eric Holder’s speech to his staff at the Department of Justice. Holder tackles race in America in a remarkably straight-forward and clear-eyed way. Dayo calls it “confrontational,” and indeed, it’s hard to read sentences like these — “in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards” — without thinking that perhaps Eric Holder has been holding something inside that he’s wanted to yell at the top of his lungs for a long time.
These lines from Holder —
“On Saturdays and Sundays, America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some 50 years ago.”
“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.”
“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…”
— are so clearly at odds with Obama’s re-telling of American history as a shared journey and his vision of America’s future as one of shared sacrifice (and a resulting shared success) that it almost feels as though Holder is very slyly calling his boss a liar.
But we always knew that Obama’s vision of race in this country, and his implied suggestion that different races could come together because of his election, was a bit too fanciful, didn’t we? I think a lot of liberals knew that Eric Holder’s America is the real America, but chose to believe instead in Barack Obama’s America. And maybe that’s not a politician using the self-deception of millions of Americans for his own gain. Maybe that’s a leader inspiring people to see a better and more just alternative.