March 7th, 2009
07:02 PM ET
14 years ago

Obama discusses Holder's 'cowards' remark

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Attorney General Eric Holder came under fire recently for calling America a 'nation of cowards.'"]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama, in an interview published Saturday, sought to clarify Attorney General Eric Holder's recent controversial comments calling America a 'nation of cowards' when it comes to race relations.

"I think it’s fair to say that if I had been advising my attorney general, we would have used different language," Obama told the New York Times aboard Air Force One on Friday. "I think the point that he was making is that we’re oftentimes uncomfortable with talking about race until there’s some sort of racial flare-up or conflict, and that we could probably be more constructive in facing up to the painful legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and discrimination."

In a speech marking Black History Month on February 18, Holder said that while the nation has "proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot ... we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards."

Read more on Holder's comments

Holder, an African American, said that Americans are afraid to talk about race, adding that "certain subjects are off-limits and that to explore them risks at best embarrassment and at worst the questioning of one's character."

And that impression of race in America set off an immediate firestorm of criticism - mostly among conservative bloggers such as Michelle Malkin.

But Obama said Friday that the nation has made "enormous progress and we shouldn't lose sight of that."

"And I’m not somebody who believes that constantly talking about race somehow solves racial tensions,” the president said. “I think what solves racial tensions is fixing the economy, putting people to work, making sure that people have health care, ensuring that every kid is learning out here. I think if we do that, then we’ll probably have more fruitful conversations."

Filed under: Eric Holder • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (258 Responses)
  1. Richard

    Holder is right. If Americans were not cowards, everyone would have accused the Republicans of making a token black guy (Steele) their chairmen.

    Obama and Holder are NOT token blacks, they are leaders who deserve their positions; I have to say this, otherwise people will think I am racist because they don't know me, or my voting record, and because it is socially inappropriate to point out token black people (which is a result of an overload of political correctness).

    March 8, 2009 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  2. David

    Seek and ye shall find...

    Seek racism and you'll find it. Seek cowards and you'll find them. Seek a dream and you will find that. Personally, I choose to seek MLK's dream...

    March 8, 2009 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  3. cecil w

    i feel AG Holder's comments were right on time. thats the problem we don't even want to say the words "racial conversation" we as a society would rather stick our heads in the sand than confront how we feel about each other. President Obama is correct in his feeling of sitting down and talking with world leaders friends and foe. if we did we probably could settle some of our differences instead we just shut people out and pray it will go away. i believe if we as a nation would come to the table blacks,hispanics,jewsand whites and shared our likes and dislikes we could find common ground where our kids could live together without having to go to our schools and see ropes tied over trees, and black history taught as it should be as part of schools curriculums and not for 28 days out of the year.

    March 8, 2009 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  4. Arnold G. Burr S.R

    I disagree with Holder's comment,the black on black violence.People do not want ,have a comment on this issue.This is being a coward,A major org.,Naacp,represent certain people[favortism]A alot of ignorance.I worked all black enviroment,ignorance is terriable.I'm black.People can be cowards,[ignorant] It does not matter on race.My own race ,always trying, to get over.I respect people,who respect me.

    March 8, 2009 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  5. Pam

    From what I gathered the blacks brought thier own people to be sold as slaves in America over 100 yrs ago. I dont agree with the treatment alot of blacks recieved years ago it was so unhumane. But Im not responcible for things that happened so many years ago, I keep thinking why do whites owe blacks anything I personally would be thankful my ancestors suffered for me to be able to live in the land of the free. And Africa now (I have never been there) but watch TV is war, starvation, drought and aids ridden. I dont care what race you are as long as your a good person. I did find in my ancestry our family owned a Black slave named Rose I read when the family died they left Rose some silverware. I told my Mom oh yeay look they left Rose some silverware my mom said well they must have really loved her because that was alot in those days. My Mom told me the Irish were also slaves. I'm Irish I guess I'm owed too. And It really Irks me that Obama is called Black When he is Half White raised by White Grand Parents and only met his Dad once when he was about 10. His skin is dark he married a Black Woman I guess thats what makes him a Black man. I am one who voted for him I believe in him, and his change policy. He took over a mess and I'm praying he can get us out.
    I wrote this for all to see and i'm sure I will be called a racist but i'm not a COWARD. By the way I flunked History so if i'm wrong I dont mind being corrected.

    March 8, 2009 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  6. Pat

    Holder's words on racism is a sugar-coated lie. The White guilt trip has been repeatedly used to shut up any real discussion on race. Students are not taught in lower and higher level education about all the people who fought and died to end slavery in this great county – just the underground railroad and gloss over the rest. Remember the past and fix the present for the future.

    March 8, 2009 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  7. black racist

    it really makes me happy 2 know that whites feel the sting of prejudice. yall been doin everything u can 2 kill us and we still here. i know its gotta make u a little upset. despite slavery, and da 2 hundred year head start on education (wouldnt even allow us to read) we still gaining on yall. yes we r racist and very sensitive and we should b! we dont expect yall 2 feel sorry we know yall hate us, even da ones that claim innocent. but yall plan is bout 2 back fire u know, ur reign is over, and thats not how u thout it would b. the mixed pres. represents wat yall fear da most, and that is ur race no longer existing. see thats y they teach thier kids to stay away from us they dont want us mixing. lol we mixin at a incredible pace! wont have 2 worry bout racism in a few years it ll only b us. as far as us complaining, DEAL WIT IT should have left us in our country. Yall gotta b impressed at how far we have made it wit ur foot on our back. "original man" baby its our time again! yall say we whine 4 nonthing but if u white u dont have a clue wat we endure on a daily so shut it. wat yall need 2 do is prepare cause it bout 2 b a "new world order" lol

    March 8, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
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