Holder: Donald Sterling not the real issue
May 17th, 2014
03:08 PM ET
6 months ago

Holder: Donald Sterling not the real issue

(CNN) - Outbursts like Donald Sterling's recorded rant or Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's controversial comments are not the real problem, says Attorney General Eric Holder.

"More subtle" forms of racism that "cut deeper" cause the real harm, he argued Saturday.

In a commencement speech at Morgan State University, a historically black college in Baltimore, Holder used the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling that desegregated schools to highlight inequalities that persist today.

Referencing the "systematic and unwarranted racial disparities" of the criminal justice system and the "moral failings" of voter identification laws, Holder argued legitimate problems usually get lost in the din over major public incidents.

Most recently, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling caused outrage after he went on a racist rant in a leaked audio recording. Bundy, who is challenging the federal government over land fees, suggested blacks may be better off as slaves.

While it is good to see such remarks condemned swiftly and widely, Holder said, it often misses the point.

"If we focus solely on these incidents - on outlandish statements that capture national attention and spark outrage on Facebook and Twitter - we are likely to miss the more hidden, and more troubling, reality behind the headlines," he said.

"Policies that disenfranchise specific groups are more pernicious than hateful rants," he continued. "Proposals that feed uncertainty, question the desire of a people to work, and relegate particular Americans to economic despair are more malignant than intolerant public statements, no matter how many eyebrows the outbursts might raise. And a criminal justice system that treats groups of people differently - and punishes them unequally - has a much more negative impact than misguided words that we can reject out of hand."

The attorney general went on to speak to specific issues.

In particular, he addressed the higher incarceration rates and longer sentences that African-American men face. African-American men have received sentences that are nearly 20% longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes, said Holder, citing the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Black men are also more than six times as likely as white men to be incarcerated, according to the Pew Research Center.

While schools may no longer be segregated legally, some districts have moved in that direction, said Holder, also arguing that disciplinary policies often unfairly target young black men.

"In too many of our school districts, significant divisions persist and desegregation has reoccurred - including zero-tolerance school discipline practices that, while well-intentioned and aimed at promoting school safety, affect black males at a rate three times higher than their white peers," he said.

Laws may forbid racism, but "there are other policies that too easily escape such scrutiny because they have the appearance of being race-neutral. Their impacts, however, are anything but," he said.

To Holder, voter identification laws exemplify the problem best.

"In too many jurisdictions, new types of restrictions are justified as attempts to curb an epidemic of voter fraud that - in reality - has never been shown to exist," he said, and instead they "disproportionately disenfranchise African-Americans, Hispanics, other communities of color, and vulnerable populations such as the elderly."

Holder even went after Chief Justice John Roberts. In April, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Michigan law banning the use of racial criteria in college admissions. Last June, the court struck down a key provision of the historic Civil Rights Act.

At the time, Roberts said that the section was no longer necessary because "our country has changed" for the better. Holder disagrees.

"Chief Justice John Roberts has argued that the path to ending racial discrimination is to give less consideration to the issue of race altogether. This presupposes that racial discrimination is at a sufficiently low ebb that it doesn't need to be actively confronted," he said.

Holder concluded by calling for a national conversation about race. More dialogue, he argued, can lead to more progress.

–CNN's Evan Perez contributed to this report.


Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. Durrell

    A National dialogue about race!? White people, who are the proponents of racism, will discriminate at every opportunity. They depend on racism to exist. After the Sterling news ends, they will start up with IMMIGRATION, Mexican immigration to be specific. After that it will be Muslims, and after that Terrorist; the target will always be people of color, exclusively. White People, who more and more people are beginning to recognize as a Devil race, will always discriminate. Humans need to develop and implement laws that recognize this fact.

    May 17, 2014 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  2. Hector Slagg

    There will always be pockets or racisim out there. And it runs thru all creeds and colors. But it is so minisclule it isn't even worth mentioning today. But, there is an old saying, Let Sleeping Dogs lay. People are sensitive when being called something they aren't and repurcussions can set progress back for certain segements of society.

    May 17, 2014 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  3. Thomas

    A police commissioner in a northern New England town says he won't apologize for calling President Barack Obama the "n" word.

    Chief Justice John Roberts has argued that the path to ending racial discrimination is to give less consideration to the issue of race altogether.

    John Roberts lives in a world on paper , not reality , Denial . The best way to deal with poverty is give less consideration to the problem ?

    May 18, 2014 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  4. YoonYoungJo

    It would be a good day if Chief Justice Roberts was right. Its a shame that racism still exists at the level it does. And sometimes I tend to forget that the fight against racism isn't over. I think America will only become a non racist country when the bloodlines of people become more racially mixed. Its sad it will take that long.

    May 18, 2014 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  5. Yathink Rilly

    "Policies that disenfranchise specific groups are more pernicious" from one side of the mouth; criticism of the Michigan law banning race from college admission decisions in the other. racial quotas, by definition, are policies that disenfranchise specific groups – whites and asians. I agree totally, however, that sentences are disproportionate, which is something that the ATTORNEY GENERAL should be the number one advocate for change. What the heck has Holder done in six years, other than do whiny speeches about it.

    May 18, 2014 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  6. CryBabies

    Marie MaD.. Your blind bias is whats wrong with this country.

    May 18, 2014 02:22 am at 2:22 am |
  7. Hugo

    If Holder didn't have "racial equality" to continue to hang his racist hat on to distract and obfuscate from the "Obama phony scandals" he wouldn't have anything...

    Oh my white guilt and privilege is killing me, quick I need redemption, call Obama and Oprah in their million dollar mansions...maybe if I find some guy to kiss they'll let me keep more of my hard earned money.

    May 18, 2014 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  8. orrball

    Holder should be put in jail just on the laws he won't enforce ?

    May 18, 2014 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  9. Chuck

    Holder is a racist in addition to being a thoroughly corrupt political hack. His opposition to voter ID is about the facilitation of voter fraud but is being sold as a race issue.

    May 18, 2014 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  10. king

    i am still in ah with the bundies making the federal government back down, wth the egging on of the republican party. i cannot believe there was no one held accountable for such crime. these folks were pointing guns at the federal government for crying out loud, with the egging on of the republican party. i wonder if the repubs would be egging on inner city kids no matter their status in life, to shoot the federal government.

    May 18, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  11. Lizzie

    Marie MD, oh those bad corporations, yet you want the stock market to go up and praise them, your portfolio increases and your happy.
    If racism would not be kept alive by persons like Holder, Michelle Obama, Rev.Wright, Rev.Sharpton then they would have nothing to say.

    May 18, 2014 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  12. Jai john

    This guy is the AG?!! Black men are more likely to get locked up because they are more likely to commit crimes! It may be their upbringing or culture but it's the truth. Let's not hide from it. Stop havin single parent households. This problem is not going to get better until African Americans take action for their communities.

    May 18, 2014 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  13. michael

    If Sterling was an investment bank Holder would be cheering him on....

    May 18, 2014 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  14. boboo the clown

    I agreed a lot of what he has to say but I think African Americans need to take some responsibility. When you have 10 percent of the population who make up 99 percent of the prison population then there is a fundamental issue with them as a society. You can't say that the judiciary system is biased in all these cases but I do think perception of those in the judiciary and law enforcement may color the some of outcomes. But my answer to that is simple. Change people's perception. Some may feel my next comment to be racist but I feel it's just the truth. Black men need to step up and raise their kids. Stop leaving them to be raised in single parent families that have no choice but to live on the wrong side of the tracks and have the deck stacked against them for the word jump. Then the cycle perpetrates again and again. Men need to be there to be the financial anchor and to show their sons right from wrong. At the same time they show their daughters the kind of respect that a man should afford for them. This flaw is the reason why blacks line the prisons. Not a biased judiciary system

    May 18, 2014 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  15. Name jsmallz

    The real issue is Holder, Sharpton and Jackson. They have done nothing to help young blacks in this country. It is so easy to blame it on racism.

    May 18, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  16. scott

    ever thought that affirmative action is the root of the evil..look at it .. it causes whites to say blacks have a leg up on everyone else, you can have black colleges but not white(that would be racist)..black caucus but not white, naacp but no naawp,uncf but no uwcf....these all cause divisons...what is good for one has to be good for all, that way when Obama appoints a qualified black man whites can't say he did it for race reasons...what ever happened to mlk's dream of walking hand and hand?

    May 18, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  17. rs

    Holder is right. People like Sterling and Bundy are in an unfortunate abundance in America, and will always get singled out for their overt racism. The shame of it not only is that these men harbor the hatred they do, but that the Right in America plays the unfortunate dance with them- embracing them (for their money, or their other equally repugnant ideology, only to rejects them when their racism blows up. In the meanwhile, the Bundys become the icons for other anti-American, anti-government trolls looking for an excuse to misbehave (as we saw in the trashing of archaeological sites by ATV-ers in Utah)- using the excuse that they are somehow justified as well- because they too hate the government for some reason- and the Right, if just for that moment panders to them.

    May 18, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  18. Jay

    Holder is a racist. Holders opinion is worthless.

    May 18, 2014 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  19. rs

    Hector Slagg
    There will always be pockets or racisim out there. And it runs thru all creeds and colors. But it is so minisclule it isn't even worth mentioning today. But, there is an old saying, Let Sleeping Dogs lay. People are sensitive when being called something they aren't and repurcussions can set progress back for certain segements of society.
    _______________
    The point Hector is that obviously, you aren't the member of a minority group, and you have no first-hand knowledge of what prejudice is, or how it works and how pervasive it is. Your riff is nice though (straight out of "In the Heat of the night" right?). That is always how the population that subjugates others reacts- "we're not racist", "it's just a few bad apples", "things are really pretty good".

    It is part of the willful delusion of the Right to not only be blind to race in America today, but to simply keep on pushing the racial ideology from 50 or a hundred years ago because for them, it still works.

    May 18, 2014 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  20. Cathy p

    Who are you people
    I have to have ID to walk into a social security office or any federal building
    I have to have ID to buy beer
    ID required to get into a club
    Cigarettes purchase requires ID if you young......poor poor black people can't show their picture ID to VOTE
    It's to hard to pull out of your wallet.......isn't it a law to have picture ID. The elderly stupid people couldn't get Medicare and social security without picture I'd or open an account for check deposits
    Tell who gets food stamps without ID
    Who drives without a drivers license..........poor poor blacks, why it's just to hard
    HOLDER is a black racist and shame on him, graduation is about your success and a new bright future, after his speech who didn't feel hate for their fellow American
    The race card is old and causing problems
    Why can't obama and holder say, support your families, love your children
    Clean up your neighborhood, f no, they want create more division than the 1950's
    Thanks to obama care, to see a doctor you have to have ID, picture I'd
    To write a checkor use a debit card most places want picture I'd
    Think for your self
    Holder is a criminàl, I have more resp et for the corner crack dealer
    At least he is honest about what he is doing

    May 18, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  21. rs

    scott
    ever thought that affirmative action is the root of the evil..look at it .. it causes whites to say blacks have a leg up on everyone else, you can have black colleges but not white(that would be racist)..black caucus but not white, naacp but no naawp,uncf but no uwcf....these all cause divisons...what is good for one has to be good for all, that way when Obama appoints a qualified black man whites can't say he did it for race reasons...what ever happened to mlk's dream of walking hand and hand?
    --------
    It's simple Scott, there is no National Association for White People, because they are the power group, the majority, and there is no systematic means of discrimination working against them. Some may not believe that and promote such nonsense (Like Mr. Limbaugh for example who has a whole host of minority groups he apparently feels persecuted by), but the reality is, the table is banked for whites in America. The idea that whites are under attack or their rights are endangered or that minority groups want some unfair advantage is silly and crazy.

    May 18, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  22. actmore

    Act more, talk less.

    May 18, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  23. RightishLeft

    Eric Holder is himself a bigot and racist, who believes that the Blacks can't be racists – their hatred of whites is "resentment" not racism. So when a gang of black kids attack a white kid just because of the color of his skin, they are being resentful, not racist, and this is not he hate crime – in Holder's view. Scarily, this is exactly how DOJ approaches these crimes – white on black is a hate crime, black on white is not, even if the race was the main reason for an attack.

    My child and the other white / hispanic / asian / indian kids are constantly subjected to the racist remarks from the black kids in their school, which is OK in Holder's view, as this is simply "resentment". Now had my child made any racist statement, he'd probably be suspended or expelled.

    The Democratic Party makes it harder and harder to even consider voting for them. They are just as out of control and dangerous as the Republicans were 10 years ago. Eric Holder is a prime example of a bigoted, racist, radical Democrat.

    May 18, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  24. Anonymous

    If the people of color in this country were not so racist everything could be worked out so much faster.

    May 18, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  25. HenryMiller

    Yeah, imaginary racism is the worst kind because it's as bad as you want it to be and persists as long as you want it to last.

    May 18, 2014 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
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