The Attorney General, Eric Holder, certainly stepped in it this week when he said this.
The cardinal sin that Holder made was to stereotype negatively. Now, politicians often get away with positive stereotypes though they are no less ridiculous. Americans have no problem being referred to as hard working, honest, or even patriotic. Of course, Americans are NOT monolithic. There is not one guiding trait that is a thread throughout all of us. There are plenty of lazy Americans, dishonest Americans, and unpatriotic Americans.
Yet, it is when a politician stereotypes negatively that it gets noticed and often it blows up. Such a stereotypical statement is absurd. That's because it has no context. There are several hundred million Americans. Some I am sure are cowardly when it comes to race. Others are not, and many have too many things going on in their lives to think much about race.
I do believe that there aren't nearly enough honest and frank conversations about race. I also think that many people are afraid to talk about race because such talk often winds up with someone being referred to as "racist". I also now that such a climate of fear is often caused by racial hucksters and demonizers. This statement is just yet another example.
I feel like I am in a unique position of authority to speak on issues of racism and bigotry. That's because I have faced it in one form or another most of my life. Throughout grade school and high school it was my country of origin, Russia. In college, it was my religion, Jewish. Besides this, while I am nowhere near perfect, one thing I know is that I judge everyone by the content of their character. So, when I hear what Holder said, I think that he is appealing to the worst common denominator of race. He is appealing to divisiveness rather than inclusiveness. Worst yet, he is doing much the same as those that he condemns.
Stereotyping only appeals to the worst elements of racism. In that sense, what Holder did puts him on a similar plain to the worst sort of racists. Just as the average racist is likely to take the most negative stereotype of whatever group they hate and apply them to the group, so to does Holder do it with all Americans. American is no nation of cowards, on race or otherwise. There are plenty of courageous Americans, on race or otherwise, that stand up everyday for what is right. America has a long way to go on race, that's for sure. Yet, it is only pushed back by the sort of divisive statement that Holder made.
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