May 13th, 2009
05:53 PM ET
9 years ago

Holder sees race 'dialogue going on,' but without 'comfort level'

The Attorney General spoke at the National Press Club in Washington Wednesday.

The Attorney General spoke at the National Press Club in Washington Wednesday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Two months after Attorney General Eric Holder was widely criticized for his assertion that Americans are a "nation of cowards" for not openly discussing race, Holder said Wednesday he now sees some movement.

"I think there is a dialogue going on. But I'm still worried the comfort level isn't there," Holder told the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Holder told the organization's luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington the discomfort is particularly evident on the subject of affirmative action. He said citizens are reluctant to speak out, fearing that they'll be "seen as a racist."

Holder said he supports affirmative action and sees it as a way "to encourage diversity where everyone wins."

The attorney general said he believes career civil rights lawyers were "cut out of the process" in important decision-making by political appointees in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division during the Bush Administration, and wants that process reversed.

Holder, the nation's first African-American attorney general, said the election of Barack Obama reflects progress in race relations, but said statistics continue to show there is still a need for extending voting rights laws aimed at fighting discrimination.

"There are still battles to be fought, still hurdles to be overcome," he said.

Holder declined to comment on the case of former FBI agent Donald Rochon, who won a high profile lawsuit over alleged racial discrimination in the bureau, and is now challenging the FBI over his retirement benefits.

"All I know is what I've read in the paper about it," Holder said.

On other subjects, the attorney general:

–said he does not know where Guantanamo Bay detainees will be placed, and that no decisions have been made.

–promised Justice officials will follow the evidence and the law to determine whether Bush administration officials will be prosecuted, and "we'll see how things develop."

–asserted Vice President Cheney is "dead wrong" in claiming the country is less safe under the Obama administration. "We are as safe now as we have ever been," he said.

Filed under: Eric Holder
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. truth is liberal sort of

    holder...prepare for trial in four years along with napolitano

    May 13, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  2. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    What he said was true. I see it all the time. My friends of various heritages and I laugh at it. It is so easy to detect when someone is uncomfortable (cowardly) regarding any discussion of the difference in skin tone.

    From my perspective (and I would say my friends' also), most American need to just relax about it all.

    Ya gotta have fuadmire the commonalities and have the occasional good natured laugh about the differences. That's why my friends of various heritages are my friends!

    May 13, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  3. Earl from Ohio

    Finally an Attorney General that gets it right!!

    May 13, 2009 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  4. Deborah L. Irizarry

    It is not the duty of elected or appointed officials to tell American citizens what topics to discuss and whom they must "talk" with about assigned subjects. That is insulting and pushy and an example of why comfortable dialogues are not exchanged. Do not order me to talk to select groups and tell me what to say in my "free" time.

    May 13, 2009 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  5. harry1

    I'm all for diversity as long as the MOST qualified individual makes ranks.
    Affirmative action is an oxymoron for racial divide......Please

    May 13, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  6. Willy Brown

    Holder is a race baiter

    May 13, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  7. Justice or Just us?

    Mr. Holder...

    I pray the President chose a good man

    Investigate, Indict. Prosecute.

    If it leads to Cheney and Pelosi being led away in handcuffs, so be it.

    Torture IS illegal.......made God give you the courage to protect this Republic. To restore and reclaim the Justice Dept.

    May 13, 2009 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  8. Shirley In California

    Race will always be a subject of discussion in America. Sadly, EVERYTHING is based on color. It will be a wonderful day in this country in the next 50 years when most of the ignorant will no longer be here and the new generation takes over. I am real proud of how color blind they are. They base their emotions on the person and not the color. While Mr. Holder will be labeled a "racist" and everyone is entitled to their opinion he is only stating a fact. This country has a long ways to go before it reaches the "comfort level." Just look at the mccain/palin rallies. America at its worse. Need I say more?

    May 13, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  9. Proud DHS radical

    Eric Holder wants to openly discuss racism well here goes...what about the story posted yesterday of the Black couple in Chicago that is starting a 'Shop Black stores only movement' That's as racist has one can get but I guess only us White folks can be labeled a racist or can be charged with a Hate Crime. And that moniker African-American is plain stupid! Make up your mind, are you an American or not? The only one that can lay claim to being a true African America is Obama.

    May 13, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  10. Get on with the problems at hand.

    Mr Holder,

    I have a suggestion for you.. Quit worrying about what the white people think about you and just get your nose to the grind stone and show us what your made of. IF your made of courage, you will go after the theives ane thugs who ran our country and economy into the ground. You will go after those who tortured using your (and our) name as the reason they tortured. You'll show the folks of the United States you are worthy of being our Attorney General NOT AS A BLACK MAN but as an intelligent person who President Obama put all of our trust in by hiring you... Thank you very much...

    May 13, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  11. Race in the white house

    I am not offended in the least by having a black man in the oval office. I am offended by having a dumb man in the oval office, who happens to be black. There, Mr Holder, I feel perfectly comfortable saying that.

    May 13, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  12. Lauren

    Holder said he supports affirmative action and sees it as a way "to encourage diversity where everyone wins."

    Will there be affirmative action when whites become the minority?????????

    May 13, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  13. Independent_me

    What people don't know is that WHITE WOMEN have benefited more from affirmative action than any other minority group. People need to discuss this.

    Get rid of affirmative action and white women will be hardest hit.

    May 13, 2009 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  14. Hans Brecker, Albany NY

    The sad part is, it is people like Holder , jesse, the not-so-reverend Al and their ilk, that keep race in the forefront and not "human" aspect instead. If these race-based hate mongers stayed out of it and mankind acted as they should, we could all get along.........................
    There will always be degenerates in every sect of society, but their are the decent ones that know how to treat other's and do so completely without regard "race". STOP shoving your hate into the Countries dialogue and start treating us all as humans, not races!!!!

    May 13, 2009 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  15. Jimmy the Greek

    Dear lord – does this guy think he's Dr Phil or the Attorney General??

    Holder is an example of what a country gets when they elect a community organizer!

    May 13, 2009 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  16. ray ray

    Holder is an idiot.

    May 13, 2009 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  17. Jane

    He seems to be the only one talking about race and there have not been to many not of color in the WH as yet.

    May 13, 2009 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  18. annie for Palin

    The white house must be about to pull off another big under handed move since they are playing the race card again for the 100th million time.

    May 13, 2009 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  19. No Hope

    Mr Holder, you are still a race monger who keeps it alive, so you are the RACIST.

    May 13, 2009 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  20. Laurens R. Hunt

    If I was to be the United States Attorney General, I am not sure that my choice of words would be nation of cowards. However I do appreciate where Eric Holder is coming from. I have often wondered that the same absence of dialogue is prevalent for people with disabilities. On the subject of race relations I find the talk shows hosted by Tavis Smiley to be very motivational and positive. I often see similar round tables for women and the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Trans-Gender, and Queer) Communities. The disability advocacy groups need to fight for the same visibility and focus on the same outreach.

    May 13, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  21. Neil

    We can't start making progress on cultural issues until we start being honest. The first thing to do is stop using the term "race" to identify ethnic diversity. There is only one race. The human race. And we are rather unremarkable as far as diversity goes. The term "race" is used to keep us divided so one group can assert its superiority over another. We can't start treating ourselves like brothers until we see ourselves as brothers.

    May 13, 2009 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  22. Danka1

    Race is not just with black & white. There is a lot with blacks and people from other countries & whites ande people from other countries. That will never stop. It is the nature of some people, but we are still hopeful.

    May 13, 2009 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  23. Henry Miller, Cary, NC

    "Holder said he supports affirmative action and sees it as a way 'to encourage diversity where everyone wins.'"

    If people care one way or the other about the color of other people's skin, it's racism, and using the word "diversity" is just a way to pretty that up.

    "Affirmative action" is racism.

    May 13, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  24. DaBird

    Eric Holder is a racist for even implying that I am a coward. I treat everyone based on the person. I don't owe black people anything. Holder sounds like Perez Hilton with his comments.

    May 13, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  25. Carolyn Jones - Hawthorne, California

    We must continue to voite for civil rights, otherwise, all will be lost; just because we now have an African American President – things have not changed too far down the line; I personally know we as african americans must know more – prove ourselves more; cannot even think about obtaining the jobs awared to whites without having more knowledge, education and verbal command of the english language. I doubt the struggle will end in my life time @ my age of 56.

    May 13, 2009 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
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