May 13th, 2009
05:53 PM ET
11 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. Albo58

    Is Holder the Attorney General of the United States or a spokesman for the archaic NAACP? His race-baiting lectures are really getting old!

    May 13, 2009 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  2. Great stuff

    Yup, I talked to one of my black friends the other day. I owe it all to Mr. Holder.

    Thanks, Eric! As far as citizens being reluctant to speak out...hell yeah. It's people like you that are making PC = The American Way. I think you might want to redefine the term "speak out" to mean: "To agree with Eric Holder and his friends".

    May 13, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  3. Remedios, MD

    Holder is right. People talk about race when they are NOT comfortable and that's when things get out of control. RACE is a reality, America better start learning how to talk about it and deal with it if we, as a country is going to move forward.

    May 13, 2009 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    Complain all you want. This is precisely what they should be doing: issuing the challenge. Leadership means sometimes challenging people to do what they otherwise might not if left to their own devices, and if you're honest, you can admit the discussion has become rather stagnant.

    May 13, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  5. German,Irish American

    I won't be a coward Mr. Holder. You sir, are a racist, your boss Obama is a racist, evidenced by his 20 years of attending a racist hate-filled church. Also the black population proved their racism by voting 95% for the Mulattto candidate because they believed he was black. Imagine the outrage if whites voted 95% for McCain/Palin. Please, just concentrate on legally doing your job, instead of doing Obama's dirty work by trying to divide this country with racist remarks.

    May 13, 2009 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  6. connie

    so Holder what do you want to talk about. White people will talk about race problems i think you are the one who has a problem. Only thing white people get tired of is having the race card thrown in our face every time a black person gets into trouble. that is my only issue and when i was standing ln line to vote this past november there were so many blacks voting that couldn't speak english and no one question it, i knowing good and well that they weren't citizens of the USA just along as Obama got voted in it was ok.

    May 13, 2009 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  7. Dimslie

    Hey, Mr. A.G., I'm more than willing to give you a dialog on race. Are you really sure you're ready for some candor?

    May 13, 2009 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  8. S Callahan

    I think you have it absolutely wrong...right now people are concerned with their jobs their homes, their children's education, their retirment plan, health insurance and so there is a real 'trust' issue going Obama able to get things back on track. Right now, I don't think it matters if someone is purple..people want things to get 'right'.

    May 13, 2009 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  9. kilchis

    Mr. Holder should stop worrying about a problem that will take time and a paradigm shift and focus on whether or not he's going to seek indictments over the violation of our laws on torture.

    May 13, 2009 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  10. No Hillary = No Obama

    Now with Obama President there is one difference I have noticed. While sitting in a class the other day about trauma – one of the class participants stated that racism was the cause of trauma in his life and another Black student said the same thing. This would never have been admitted before. So the Obama Presidency is giving a voice to one big guilt trip put on everybody else. I never practiced racism in my life, yet I have to hear how we all caused trauma. Give me a break!

    May 13, 2009 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
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