On Wednesday, February 18 Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech on the occassion of Black History Month. Some of his comments raised eyebrows, particularly the following (compliments of Amanda Terkel at Think Progress):
Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in two many ways, a nation of cowards. Though race related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issue in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about things racial. […]
And we, in this room, bear a special responsibility. Through its work and through its example, the Department of Justice — this Department of Justice — as long as I’m here, must and will leave the nation to the new birth of freedom so long ago promised by our greatest president. This is our duty, this is our solemn responsibility.
Today on Hardball with Chris Matthews, Pat Buchanan and Michael Eric Dyson held a heated debate over Holder’s comments, particularly the “nation of cowards” remark. Mike Barnicle moderated standing in for Chris Matthews. Barnicle pretty much seconded everything Buchanan said.
The segment, particularly Buchanan’s diatribe was incendiary. See it here. It however revealed one of the central themes of his philosophy. In short he does not believe that black people are Americans or any other non-white folks for that matter. Naturally, he would assume that the “nation” Eric Holder referred to was directed at whites only. I wish Michael Eric Dyson would have challenged him on this instead of going along with Buchanan. I don’t entirely agree with Holder that talking about race is enough. In fact I think that race is talked about explicitly and implicitly on a constant basis. Those discussions are not always informed, nuanced, consistent, or productive enough.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American Studies at Princeton University, characterized Holder’s speech as a failure.
I am deeply concerned that the leader of the Department of Justice seems to believe that our workplaces need dialogue, discourse, and understanding rather than fair hiring practices, equal pay, and transparent promotion procedures. We can’t talk our way out of employers who refuse to interview a job candidate if the name on the résumé “sounds black.”
Holder discussed weekend segregation as if it is just a matter of personal recreational choice: White folks go off to NASCAR and black people prefer to watch basketball. But the reason Americans do not share racial vocabulary or opportunities for interracial dialogue is because of deeply entrenched racial residential segregation.
We don’t spend our weekends together because we don’t live in the same neighborhoods. Housing segregation is not just a matter of personal choice. Some real estate agents steer black families away from predominantly white neighborhoods. Some property owners refuse to rent to black families. Both of these acts are illegal.
As I listened to Buchanan spout off his statistics proving black criminality and irresponsibility, it reminded me of a post of Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Amazing Racism of Pat Buchanan.” He quotes Pat Buchanan and it matches what he said to Michael Eric Dyson:
First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.
Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.
Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks — with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas — to advance black applicants over white applicants.
Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.
We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?
I went to Buchanan’s website and wasn’t surprised to find his Supporters of the White Race Forum. My question is how can MSNBC have someone like Buchanan as a regular pundit on almost all of their cable news shows? He belongs on Fox News. Unfortunately, he and his sister Bay Buchanan (usually on CNN) have regular spots on these cable news shows. No amount of arguing, explaining, or discussing will ever change their racist views.