Devlin Barrett, AP, February 18, 2009
Attorney General Eric Holder described the United States Wednesday as a nation of cowards on matters of race, saying most Americans avoid discussing awkward racial issues. In a speech to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month, Holder said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives.
Race issues continue to be a topic of political discussion, Holder said, but “we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.”
He urged people of all races to use Black History Month as a chance for honest discussion of racial matters, including issues of health care, education, and economic disparities.
He told hundreds of Justice Department employees gathered for the event that they have a special responsibility to advance racial understanding.
Even when people mix at the workplace or afterwork social events, Holder argued, many Americans in their free time are still segregated inside what he called “race-protected cocoons.”
“Saturdays and Sundays, America in the year 2009 does not in some ways differ significantly from the country that existed almost 50 years ago. This is truly sad,” said Holder.
“If we’re going to ever make progress, we’re going to have to have the guts, we have to have the determination, to be honest with each other. It also means we have to be able to accept criticism where that is justified,” Holder told reporters after the speech.