Wesley Lowery, Washington Post, September 23, 2014
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Tuesday that the shooting of the unarmed black teenager by a police officer in suburban St. Louis and the tense protests, riots and national discussion that it sparked has left the country at a “moment of decision” about how police interact with racial minorities.
“These tensions simmer every day in far too many communities across the country,” Holder said. “The situation in Ferguson has presented leaders across the nation . . . with a moment of decision, a moment of decision, a series of important questions that can no longer be avoided.”
The remarks came during a speech delivered Tuesday afternoon at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice–in which the attorney general touted new numbers showing a year-over-year decline in the number of federal prisoners for the first time in decades.
Holder said the United States must decide if it will allow this period of time to be defined by racial division and discord, or if the country is prepared to “reassess” and potentially “remake” the way law enforcement relates and interacts with citizens.
“Will we yet again turn a blind eye to the hard truths that Ferguson exposed? Or will we finally accept this mandate for open and honest dialogue?” he said.
“As an African American man who has been stopped and searched by police in situations where such actions were not warranted, I also carry with me an understanding of the mistrust that some citizens harbor (toward police),” Holder said.
A new poll released this week found that just 38 percent of Americans say that blacks receive equal treatment under the criminal justice system.