Friday, February 20, 2009

Eric Holder Really Stepped In It With His Off-Base Comments About Race

The incredibly obtuse and offensive remarks on race of Obama’s new Attorney General Eric Holder, on which I commented the other day (link), have drawn a great deal of scorn.

A DC Examiner Editorial titled “The Chilling and Cowardly Words of Eric Holder” (link) includes:

Not only were Holder’s comments morally bankrupt, demonstrably untrue, and compelling proof of his own outlandish hubris; they also carried distinctly chilling undertones of government coercion. It is not the province of law enforcement chiefs to be judges and chief scolds of what their countrymen discuss. The current generation of Americans have spent half a century grappling with – and transcending – deeply rooted racial problems more extensively than any other nation in the world. President Barack Obama’s administration, with Holder its attorney general, is itself proof that Americans have more than discussed racial issues, they have voted their convictions. The glaring hubris of a man who would deem himself fit to pronounce such moral judgments on his fellow citizens is astonishing.

The context of Holder’s remarks, meanwhile, was chilling. He spoke on Wednesday not in some philosophical setting like a college graduation but in his official capacity as attorney general, to the employees at the Department of Justice. He talked of using DoJ to “creat[e] … artificial opportunities to engage one another” in conversations about race. Yet Holder also seeks to define what sorts of “conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us” are acceptable. For instance, regarding affirmative action, he castigated those who, according to his own Olympian discernment, are “on the extremes [and] who … advance nothing more than their own, narrow self interest.”

Bizarrely, Holder criticized “the alternative [which] is to allow to continue the polite, restrained mixing that now passes as meaningful interaction.” Who is he to decide what private interactions should be “allowed”?
Peter Wehner writes (link) in Contentions blog in a comment titled "Holder’s Shame":
[T]he notion that we are reluctant to talk about race is ludicrous. It is talked about almost all the time, virtually everywhere, even when it has almost nothing to do with the issue at hand.... And it should be said that there are also people (like the noxious figures Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton) who play the race card to advance their own political agenda, in a way that ends up causing division rather than reconciliation….
Linda Chavez writes (link) at Contentions :

The elephant in the room in discussions of race isn’t white prejudice; it’s the breakdown of the black family and all the attendant social pathologies that emanate from it. When 7-out-of-10 black babies are born to single women and more than half of black children spend most of their childhood without a father at home, there are consequences: lower academic performance, more juvenile delinquency and adult crime, more dependence on government assistance, and a greater likelihood to repeat the cycle again by having more children born out of wedlock to the next generation. Yet virtually no one in the black community in any position of authority and responsibility is willing to talk about this issue.

President Obama, whose own African father abandoned him, has talked about it fleetingly, choosing instead to focus mostly on the virtues of the single mom and grandparents who raised him. In his book, The Audacity of Hope, he has a few lines about “the casualness toward sex and child rearing that renders black children more vulnerable — and for which there is simply no excuse.” But he has never made ending black illegitimacy or restoring the importance of marriage in the black community part of his policy agenda. So it’s no surprise his appointees avoid the subject as well.

Instead of lecturing us on cowardice, Eric Holder could have talked about the relationship between family breakdown and crime. He could have talked about why it is that young black men aged 14-24 represent only 1 percent of the U.S. population but committed almost 28 percent of the nation’s homicides in 2005, according to his own department’s statistics. He could have talked about what it means to have fatherless teenage boys grow up in neighborhoods where your chances of being killed are greater than they were on the streets of Baghdad at the height of the insurgency. He could have talked about why it is that schools systems presided over by black superintendents in cities governed by black elected officials produce black high-school graduates who read at the eighth-grade level. He could have talked about why it is that illegal Mexican immigrants with a sixth grade education are more likely to be employed in a steady job than young black men with a high-school education.

Now that would have taken some courage.

Here’s Victor Davis Hanson writing (link) at NRO’s ‘The Corner” weblog:

[Holder] obviously hasn't paid much attention to college campuses, where the obsession with race permeates departments, curricula, hiring, faculty profile, student events, funding, etc. Bumper-sticker identification and hair-trigger readiness to accuse someone of racism to further a particular ideological or even personal agenda are now 30 years old and institutionalized in higher education.

Finally, here’s a reader responding (link) to a post by Jonah Goldberg also at “The Corner”:

Mr. Holder’s statement is shockingly ignorant of the legal (read “liability”)landscape in which race relations exist. As an attorney who represents employers facing workplace discrimination charges, I can tell you that wisdom dictates that the workplace be as free of race-related discussions as possible if an employer is to avoid administratively and/or judicially imposed liability or, more importantly, the potentially enormous cost of defending against a charge of race discrimination. Believe me, whenever an employer terminates an employee in a protected class, there is a better than even chance that that employee will at least file a discrim-ination charge with the EEOC or a similar state agency.... [T]he EEOC and its state-run subsidiaries typically help disgruntled employees comb some basis for a Title VII (or ADA, or ADEA, of FMLA) claim from their particular facts, many, many of them are frivolous.... Mr. Holder’s apparent ignorance of this government supported racial grievance generating machinery is appalling for any attorney. It is unthinkable in the U.S. Attorney General.

Meanwhile, in support of Holder's desire to promote frank talk about race, here’s today’s “Republicans are Racists” Charge of the Day, this one by a black congressman charging that any refusal by Republican governors to accept stimulus money, even in order to avoid all of the controlling strings attached, is, what else, racist (link):

The highest-ranking black congressman said Thursday that opposition to the federal stimulus package by southern GOP governors is "a slap in the face of African-Americans."

U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said he was insulted when the governors of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and his home state, which have large black populations, said they might not accept some of the money from the $787 billion stimulus package.

Clyburn began his remarks to reporters Thursday by talking about the Juneteenth celebration, which marks when slaves in Texas finally learned they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation more than a year after it happened. "Knowing my history and knowing Texas history, all of this, it was a slap in the face of African-Americans," Clyburn said.

J Greco