Buy My Book Here

Fox News Ticker

Please check out my new books, "Prosecutors Gone Wild: The Inside Story of the Trial of Chuck Panici, John Gliottoni, and Louise Marshall" and also, "The Definitive Dossier of PTSD in Whistleblowers"

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Are We Racial Cowards?

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.


Kevin Lockett said...

In what way was this a stereotype? It would be different if he said "Americans are cowards." What he was saying is that, as a group, we have been cowardly when it comes to the discussion of race. It's not about talking about race all the time. It's about making sure that when we talk about race, it's not in a cowardly way. For example, you said that some are afraid to talk about race because they may be called "racist." I think we have to stop being afraid that someone may disagree with what we have to say. Maybe some people just are racist, and they deserve to be called that. And, if they're not, they need to be willing to defend their views.

You said that some don't have time to think about race. Well, others, like myself or Mr. Holder, don't have a choice. We can't think of everyone else as the same because we've grown up being told by the world that we're fundamentally different. With all due respect, nationality and religion is not the same as race. I respect your experience, but it's not the same as mine as an African American. It's not a one-to-one relationship. That's a perfect example of the type of conversation that needs to be taking place: How are our experiences similar? How are they different? What are the implications of that? These conversations need to be done with more thoroughness, complexity, and seriousness than a one hour CNN special can provide.

Holder wasn't being divisive. He wasn't playing one race against another. He was telling the truth. It's just that we can't handle the truth.

mike volpe said...

Eric Holder is in no position to speak for a group of nearly half a billion people. You are in no position to do the same. That is stereotyping.

Don't treat me with some sort of righteous indignation. I have been discrimated against as bad as anyone else and I have called out every racist as I see them.

I don't need Eric Holder speaking for the whole of Americans and making generalizations about people. When he makes blanket statements like we are a nation of cowards, it is stereotyping, it is divisive, and it sets race relations back.

You are not, because of your skin color, the only authority on race relations, racism, and bigotry. I bow to no one. Holder's comments were totally inappropriate, they are without context, and they have no place in any discussion about race.

Kevin Lockett said...

Your proving my point. Your speaking from the perspective of individuals. I and Holder are speaking from the perspective of a collective group. I'm not saying that individual Americans are cowards. I'm not stupid, I know you can't make broad stereotypes about "nearly half a billion people."

You keep saying "I've been discriminated against" or "I've been wronged" and that's valid where appropriate, but your talking about you as an individual being mistreated by individuals. That's different from talking about they way systems, institutions, or collectives opperate. Personally, this is one of the most frustrating thing for me as an African American talking about race. When I say, "the public school system is racist," that doesn't mean I think that all or any of the people who make decisions about the public school system are racist as individuals. It's the system, the way it operates, and the results it produces that I find racist. At the risk of generalizing, I must say that I find a lot of whites not being able to differentiate between these two perspectives.

And again, I have no intention of disrespecting or legitimizing your own personal experience. It's just that, if we are going to have that honest conversation on race, I have to say that your experiences don't let you know what it's like to be black. I'm no authority on racial issues, but neither are you, and I think being a black man gives me a unique perspective on what it's like to be a black man. How is that not a logical argument?