America

Holder: 'Cowards' Was Poor Word; We're 'Reluctant' To Talk About Race

Attorney General Eric Holder addresses employees at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday A i

We need to be open about race, he says. J. David Ake/AP hide caption

itoggle caption J. David Ake/AP
Attorney General Eric Holder addresses employees at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday A

We need to be open about race, he says.

J. David Ake/AP

When he used a February speech to say that "in things racial, we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards" because Americans don't like to talk about race, Attorney General Eric Holder sparked an intense debate.

Today, Robert Siegel of All Things Considered asked Holder about that statement. Since America is a nation that has elected an African-American president and where blacks and other minorities serve in prominent positions, wasn't he selling the U.S. short?

Holder said he has no regrets. "People need to look at that speech in its entirety," he said. "It was a very hopeful speech."

The attorney general conceded, though, that "I might have chosen different words ... I might have said we were 'reluctant' to (discuss race) as opposed to 'cowards.' "

Still, he added, "I stand by what I said in the speech ... this is a country that has been afflicted with racial issues for much of its history. We have a coming demographic change that's going to make us more diverse than we ever have been and unless we are willing to talk with one another in an open way about these kinds of issues, this coming diversity might be a negative when it should be a very positive thing for our nation."

As that part of their conversation ended, Holder added an amusing line that shows his age (58) just a bit — saying that if he'd used the word "reluctant," he might have saved bloggers some "ink."

Bytes, perhaps. But ink?

Here's their discussion:

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Much from Robert's conversation with the attorney general is set for today's edition of ATC. Click here to find an NPR station near you.

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