Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is Holder right - are we a "nation of cowards" when it comes to race relations?

Eric Holder is the nation's first black Attorney General.

This week, he 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."

It has been stated that Sunday mornings are the most segregated hours in American society and Holder indicates that weekends are the same. We proudly work in corporate America amidst people of all colours, religious affiliations, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation from 9-5, Monday through Friday and yet when it comes to socializing and having critical conversations, we continue to be stymied.

Yes, we have a black President of the United States - I am not disputing that we have come far since the days of slavery and Jim Crow laws, but as a nation, we still have difficulties discussing race openly.

Holder is taking a lot of heat for his tenacity in daring to broach this powder keg of all subjects. He clearly knows that the conversation needs to be had - and in an open forum - not in back alleys, in small gatherings at coffee shops, after a couple of drinks at a cocktail party - but out in the open - for all to hear and participate.

If we do not address racism at a grand scale, we will continue to see people and judge them "by the color of their skin, not the content of their character" to quote Dr. King. Yes - we have Black History Month and Dr. King's holiday, but too often, people find themselves wondering why we even need such observances. We need them in order to constantly remind ourselves of our shared legacy of racism - no matter the colour of our skin - it runs deep and putting a band aid over it is not going to fix the abcess.

Bravo to Holder! Please read the commentary, pro and con, in its entirety at CNN online - it will cause you to dig a little deeper the next time an off colour joke is told, or the next time someone accuses you of only having a job because of the colour of your skin, also known as affirmative action.

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