Eric Holder, the first black Attorney-General, wants us to stop being "a nation of cowards" and spend each February out of our "race-protected cocoons" having a National Dialogue on Race with each other.
So, let's talk about the Holder family's racial background, which is pretty interesting, although he forgot to mention it during his big Black History Month speech to his new charges in the Department of Justice.
I'm sure he won't mind us talking about his family's race, since he just insisted that we all talk about race all month.
Eric Holder is a Bajan-American.
His father was born in Barbados, as were his maternal grandparents. Barbados has the best educated, best behaved black population of the West Indies. Bajans generally look down upon other West Indians, much less African-Americans, as frightfully uncivilized.
Nation News of Barbados reported last summer:
A BRILLIANT LEGAL MIND who was raised in a "Barbadian home" in New York City will help United States Senator Barack Obama select his vice-presidential running mate...
[Eric] Holder, the son of Eric Sr and Miriam Holder, both Barbadians, served as the top federal prosecutor in Washington after a stint as a Superior Court judge in the nation's capital. ...
His late father, who was born in St Joseph, came to the United States when he was about 12 or 13 years old and later met and married his wife [the elderly lady on the left in the picture above] who was born in New Jersey of Bajan parents.
"I feel that I grew up partly in Barbados and partly in New York," said Holder, who was born in New York and was raised in what was essentially a West Indian enclave in Queens where Bajans, Jamaicans, St Lucians, Trinidadians, Guyanese and others were among the main homeowners.
Holder, who was recently in Barbados, has been visiting the island since the 1950s.
So, Holder grew up in one of those "race-protected cocoons," in a middle class "West Indian enclave" where he was kept away from African-American culture.
Here's is the Attorney-General's mother's description of his upbringing:
His mother traces the origins of those characteristics to his upbringing, his life growing up in Queens.
"He grew up, I guess you could say, in a West Indian home, and education was quite important," she said. "They knew they had to perform the way we wanted them to. Perhaps, I was a bit harder than I should have been. Education is always important.
"As Barbadians, you know that education has always been at the top of the list of their priorities, and that was the same in our home."
Religion was another key factor in their sons' moulding, worshipping at the Episcopal Church, a few blocks from their home in Queens. The two sons served as acolytes, attended Sunday School and were active in the church's youth group.
"The church was always very important to us," Ms Holder recalled.
In the home, the emphasis too was on the family and when it came time to sit around the table for a meal, typical West Indian dishes were on the menu.
So, how'd all that cocooning work out for Holder?
Pretty good, it appears.
Further, anybody familiar with the racial structure of the West Indies -- if you're not, Malcolm Gladwell's chapter in Outliers on his mother's family in Jamaica is a good introduction -- would recognize that Holder is from Barbado's mulatto middle class, rather than from its black agricultural masses. As Gladwell points out, West Indians who look like Holder (or Gladwell's mom) didn't get that way by accident. Generations of careful breeding requiring a fair degree of social segregation have typically have gone into keeping the mulatto elites of the West Indies from slipping into the black masses.
Mrs. Holder -- the lady on the right who looks rather like Meryl Streep -- is not a Bajan. She's a Harvard graduate obstetrician. Her older sister, Vivian Malone, was one of the two black students whom Alabama Gov. George Wallace notoriously "stood in the schoolroom door" to (unsuccessfully) prevent from integrating the U. of Alabama in 1963.
Judging from their three kids' looks, I wouldn't be surprised if careful breeding, involving "paper bag tests" and the like, went into Mrs. Holder's racial makeup as well.