Op-Ed: Holder Shouldn't Have Called Us Cowards

Attorney General Eric Holder called America "a nation of cowards" because he believes Americans don't discuss race frankly. New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow writes Holder may be right, but the language he used is "counterproductive."

Holder's 'Cowards' Comments Examined

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Attorney General Eric Holder touched off an intense debate on whether America talks honestly about race during a speech Thursday at the Justice Department in which he called the Americans a "nation of cowards."

The first black attorney general said Americans speak too much of "them" and not "us."

There have been varied reactions to these remarks, including from Joe Klein, Time magazine's political columnist and author, and Michael Eric Dyson, an author and professor at Georgetown University.

"I actually thought it was a cowardly speech," Klein says, comparing it with the speech on race Obama gave in April when he was running for president. Klein says Obama talked to the nation as if they are adults, while Holder failed to give specifics. "What is upsetting to me is there seems to be absolutely no acknowledgement of the incredible progress that has been made over the last 40 or 50 years. ...We have to talk about the history of terror, but also have to talk about where we are now and how to move forward."

Dyson, however, says that Holder drew a "compelling portrait" in the discussion on race and he's the "first to admit" that there has been progress in race relations.

"I think what Eric Holder is doing is what Ronald Reagan did on June 12, 1987: 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,'" Dyson says. "I think that too often the invisible walls of social protection have been erected and what Mr. Holder as attorney general is asking us to do is to knock those walls down and open those gates up ...There's a lot of work to be done, and I think we need that part of the narrative as well."

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