February 18th, 2009
02:35 PM ET
3 years ago

Attorney General calls America 'a nation of cowards' on race

Holder said Americans need to confront the country's painful legacy on race.
Holder said Americans need to confront the country's painful legacy on race.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Eric Holder, the country’s first African-American attorney general, called the United States “a nation of cowards” Wednesday for failing to candidly talk about matters of race.

In a speech to Justice Department employees commemorating Black History Month, Holder said average Americans remain uncomfortable with race-related issues and need to do more to confront them head on.

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and we, I believe continue to be in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” Holder said.

He said Americans often “retreat to our race-protected cocoons,” a tendency that inhibits fruitful discussion that might lead to racial progress.

“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,” he said. “To our detriment this is typical of the way in which this nation deals with issues of race.”

Holder said Black History Month itself “is given a separate and unequal treatment by our society" and suggested that February should offer a chance not just for commemoration, but also for frank dialogue between races.


Filed under: Eric Holder
soundoff (140 Responses)
  1. Alfred E. Neumann

    Eric Holder proving once again that fools come in all colors.

    February 18, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  2. Tesap:Savannah, GA

    Race matters hurt the dear legacy of this country, we are told to get over slavery, racism doesn't exists anymore, the matters of race bring up a troubled past that somw would like to forget. I was fortunate to have my great-grandmother and great-grandfather alive to tell me stories of what happened in the past not fictional stories but factual events....................... I agree Mr Holder.

    February 18, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  3. Paul, Riverside, CA

    We are. As a male hispanic, I have had my run-ins with racial comments and stereotypes, and people who felt uncomfortable when I would bring up the issue of race. For God sakes, Europe was the central HUB of slavery for hundreds of years and they have far better Race Relations than America, which I always thought of as Free Country.

    February 18, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  4. Jon in CA

    Hey Eric – How about you tell your African American race-baiting friends and their congregants to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY and stop blaming everyone else (read: white people) for their problems??

    The African American community is rotting from drug dealing infestation, black-on-black crime, kids dropping out of school, lacking parental supervision or involvement.

    The only man willing to speak the truth is BILL COSBY. And your "community" villifies him for it!

    February 18, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  5. Steph

    I agree with him. We need to have a serious and ongoing dialogue about race.

    February 18, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  6. Roy Arellano (San Antonio)

    Truth hurts....

    February 18, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  7. Bleebo

    WHEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What an "eye-opener" Mr. Holder. Ht the ground running. I love it.

    Your statement is so very true. Keep on talking, I am listening.

    AWESOME

    February 18, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  8. Chill out

    The man right is Most people are ignorant because of fear.

    February 18, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  9. Once you vote Black

    Great point. I know many blacks do not see the point in talking about it and I assume many whites feel the same way. However, when we do deal with it in the US we always see improvement a la the Civil War and Civil Rights movement. Both battles saw more money in everyone’s hands, new consumers, and innovations. So to deal with the issue makes business sense.

    February 18, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  10. Roy Arellano (San Antonio)

    Truth Hurts!

    But hey; as any truely intelligent and reasonable American knows; first you identify the problem, now we fix it...right?

    Identifying that there is a problem is the first step to recovery.

    Nothing wrong with that.

    February 18, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  11. Dutch/Hampton Roads, VA

    I agree A.G. But I also think that racism is "almost" non-existent among Generation X & Y. It still exist, but kids and young adults being raised this day in age mingle amongst all races.

    February 18, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  12. Matthew, Detroit

    WOW,

    This is one great american. Baracks guy is going to drive a wedge between people. Mr. Holder appears to be a very biggoted man and a racist. This is a very bad day in politics.

    A bunch of racists just elected a black man as president of the United States of America and he calls Americans cowards.

    This is terrible. I can not feel hope and change with these kind of blatant biggoted statements. This is a very very sad day.

    February 18, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  13. peter

    obama is the coward,for god sakes the republicans led by fox news is calling him a monkey with that cartoon,they called him a socailist,they called him a terriost,they called him a radical,but at the same time obama keep kissing their butts,now obama is not for the fairness doctrine,hes for the fisa bill,obama has invited gregg back to the whitehouse,obama is a butt kisser i just wish the liberals will see it like i do

    February 18, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  14. jaye

    I agree with Mr. Holder......and I'll go on to say that racism is alive and well and thriving in our country....and I didn't realize it until JOhn McCain and Sara Palin used it to their advantage during the election.

    February 18, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  15. Ken

    I would like to know when will we have a WHITE History Month?

    February 18, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  16. Cowards? Take a hike Mister

    The Atty general is calling the whites in this country cowards -- now that is a racist remark --

    February 18, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  17. Cowards? Take a hike Mister

    The Atty general is calling the whites in this country cowards -- now that is a racist remark --

    February 18, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  18. Matthew, Detroit

    WHEN IS HOLDER GOING TO ASK FOR REPARATIONS?

    February 18, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  19. Once you vote Black

    Loving Savannah GA! My family never told me anything about race issues down there. If we cannot deal with it in our own family, how can we deal with it as a nation. It would be great to have a conversation about race. Holder makes a Great point. I know many blacks do not see the point in talking about it and I assume many whites feel the same way. However, when we do deal with it in the US we always see improvement a la the Civil War and Civil Rights movement. Both battles saw more money in everyone’s hands, new consumers, and innovations. So to deal with the issue makes business sense.

    February 18, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  20. Andi

    I can see the Right Wing posters' heads starting to explode as they type frantically to post why they aren't racists, and why diversity programs are not fair to white men, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

    Mr. Holder is completely correct, unfortunately.

    View the vile, hateful, and obscene things posted about our President and First Lady on almost all of these posts (especially the ones about the First Lady's clothes). Never was such language allowed on these public forums against any other President, Dem or Rep.

    February 18, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  21. Don

    Holder is correct..however, it is difficult to talk about race in this country as some people are just over sensitive on the subject. Years ago a group of friends, off all races were discussing a subject related to African Americans..One of the African Americans in the group became angry over the question( at the time the subject was about a white person who agreed with Bill Cosby about black families taking responsibilty for their actions). This person told the white person that they could not talk about such issues unless they were black. This group of friends fell apart as the African American friend soon came to claim everyone was racist and that he was the only one in the group allowed to speak on black issues...even to raise a question.. So if Americans would get over the crazy part..like the supermarket ad...then we could have a dialouge. But we continue to create our own problems when its okay for one race to use the N word...but not another nonsense...You would think Obama winning would have helped...but its really made it worse...especially among those with preconcieved notions on race.

    February 18, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  22. Chicago independent

    as a caucasian male I completely agree with Holder's statement and that all american people should talk more openly about race. Just don't talk about other races as if you were underminding them, thats when it become a problem.

    February 18, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  23. obama-mama

    Eric Holder is absolutely right. I'm African American and there is still a lot of racism out there. It's really sad.

    February 18, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  24. DC Observer

    I am a white male and I think Mr Holder is way off base. To generalize like this is insulting. Blacks like Al Sharpton were labeling white voters racist when 80% of them voted for Hillary CLinton over Obama; and he was silent when 99% of black voters voted for Obama. Holder ought to concentrate on not letting any more terrorists go free -– and should avoid playing the race card - seems like Obama did that to Hillary very deftly -

    February 18, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  25. dentri

    You are a Coward MR holder!Get out from this beautifull land Coward....I .you area Dangerous man.People this guy is very scary

    February 18, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
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