New Attorney-General Eric Holder announced at a Department of Justice shindig marking Black History Month:
Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. 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 race.
America's most distinguished man of science, James D. Watson, talked about race back in 2007. How'd that work out for him?
It is an issue we have never been at ease with, and given our nation’s history this is in some ways understandable. And yet, if we are to make progress in this area we 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 us....
I'm just doing my Department of Justice-mandated job here at iSteve.
To our detriment, this is typical of the way in which this nation deals with issues of race. And so I would suggest that we use February of every year to not only commemorate black history but also to foster a period of dialog among the races. This is admittedly an artificial device to generate discussion that should come more naturally, but our history is such that we must find ways to force ourselves to confront that which we have become expert at avoiding.
What a brilliant new idea! Back in 1997, Holder's old boss, Bill Clinton, started his National Conversation on Race that went on every month for a year. Granted, that was an embarrassing flop. So, in complete contrast, Holder is calling for a National Dialogue on Race that goes on every year for a month. It's totally different!
As a nation we have done a pretty good job in melding the races in the workplace. We work with one another, lunch together and, when the event is at the workplace during work hours or shortly thereafter, we socialize with one another fairly well, irrespective of race. And yet even this interaction operates within certain limitations. We know, by "American instinct" and by learned behavior, that certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks, at best embarrassment, and, at worst, the questioning of one’s character.
So, Dr. Watson should get a big apology from everybody, right?
... And outside the workplace the situation is even more bleak in that there is almost no significant interaction between us. 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....
But we must do more, and we in this room bear a special responsibility. Through its work and through its example this Department of Justice, as long as I am here, must -- and will -- lead the nation to the "new birth of freedom" so long ago promised by our greatest president. This is our duty and our solemn obligation.
Uhhmm, you guys at the Department of Justice, you have guns and badges and prisons, right? So, maybe it's a little creepy for you to be talking about what private citizens must do in private.
... There can, for instance, be very legitimate debate about the question of affirmative action. This debate can, and should, be nuanced, principled and spirited. But the conversation that we now engage in as a nation on this and other racial subjects is too often simplistic and left to those on the extremes who are not hesitant to use these issues to advance nothing more than their own narrow self interest.
So, what I'm hearing the nation's Top Cop say is that public debate over affirmative action is only okay if it's "nuanced" -- in other words, if it stays within the parameters of a Barack Obama sentence beginning with the word "Notwithstanding ..." Wouldn't it be more convenient for everybody if instead of demanding that citizens improvise their lines without stumbling into "extremes," the Justice Department would simply issues scripts for everybody to read from? It would be like a school pageant for grown-ups! Or better yet, we could all chant together President Obama's speech about Rev. Wright.
Our history has demonstrated that the vast majority of Americans are uncomfortable with, and would like to not have to deal with, racial matters and that is why those, black or white, elected or self-appointed, who promise relief in easy, quick solutions, no matter how divisive, are embraced.
"Easy, quick solutions" -- like voting for Barack Obama? You mean electing Obama President isn't going to fix anything? Damn...
We are then free to retreat to our race-protected cocoons where much is comfortable and where progress is not really made.
If we allow this attitude to persist in the face of the most significant demographic changes that this nation has ever confronted -- and remember, there will be no majority race in America in about 50 years -- the coming diversity that could be such a powerful, positive force
DIVERSITY IS UNITY
will, instead, become a reason for stagnation and polarization. We cannot allow this to happen and one way to prevent such an unwelcome outcome is to engage one another more routinely -- and to do so now.
Self-Criticism Sessions ahoy!
As O'Brien, the Inner Party member, explained:
"We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instance of death we cannot permit any deviation . . . we make the brain perfect before we blow it out."
That said, I must strongly defend Attorney General Holder's mustache against all the snickering. Why, I ask you, shouldn't a man wear a mustache just because he is neither a homosexual, a fireman, nor a relief pitcher? Holder's is quite dapper in a William Powell gentleman-of-a-certain-age way.
I call for a national dialogue on overcoming prejudice against mustaches.