The View From 1776

Attorney General Eric Holder’s Scabrous Screed

Stuart Taylor, Jr., takes the Attorney General to task on The National Journal Website.


Let The Honest Talk About Race Begin

Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009
?by Stuart Taylor Jr.

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

Your speech commemorating Black History Month by calling America “a nation of cowards” because we “do not talk enough with each other about race”—a topic about which we talk incessantly—was unworthy of the admirable public servant I believe you to be.

The speech was, as others have pointed out, embarrassingly misinformed, hackneyed, and devoid of thoughtful contributions to racial dialogue.

You can do much better. Please use your bully pulpit in the future to cut through the usual cant and state some politically incorrect truths about race in America that would carry special weight if they came from you. That would require mustering the courage to take on the Democratic Party’s powerful racial-grievance lobby. But it would do the country a lot of good.

The one point that you developed in a bit of detail in the February 18 speech was especially silly: “Black history is given a separate, and clearly not equal, treatment…. Until black history is included in the standard curriculum in our schools and becomes a regular part of all our lives, it will be viewed as a novelty, relatively unimportant and not as weighty as so-called ‘real’ American history.”

Bosh. The reality is that our high schools and universities are quite clearly focusing disproportionate attention on black history.

The proof includes a poll published last year in which 2,000 high school juniors and seniors in all 50 states were asked to name the 10 most famous Americans, other than presidents and first ladies. The top three finishers were black: Martin Luther King Jr. (67 percent), Rosa Parks (60 percent), and Harriet Tubman (44 percent). So is the only living finisher, Oprah Winfrey (22 percent).

As for the universities, “the almost obsessive emphasis on race, class, and gender in the humanities and social sciences means that, if anything, black history is overrepresented in college history curricula,” in the words of professor KC Johnson, a distinguished scholar of American history based at Brooklyn College. (We co-authored a 2007 book on the Duke lacrosse rape fraud.)

It’s true that college black-studies courses are often “separate.” But the reason is hardly to slight black history. It is to satisfy demands for hiring more black professors, who tend to specialize in black studies. Some of them also use their platforms to spread the lie that America is still pervaded by white racism.

Your unelaborated assertion that “this nation has still not come to grips with its racial past” is also way off base, Mr. Attorney General.

To the contrary, this nation has adopted numerous civil-rights laws. It has replaced the once-pervasive regime of discrimination against blacks with a benignly motivated but nonetheless wide-reaching regime of discrimination against whites, euphemistically known as “affirmative action.” It sometimes seems more interested in teaching children about slavery and segregation than about math and science. It has elected a black president.

The country has replaced the once-pervasive regime of discrimination against blacks with a benignly motivated but nonetheless wide-reaching regime of discrimination against whites known as “affirmative action.”

For all of its flaws, this nation is “the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protection of minorities than any other society, white or black; [and] offers more opportunities to a greater number of black persons than any other society, including all those of Africa,” black sociologist Orlando Patterson wrote in 1991.

You also said this, Mr. Attorney General: “On Saturdays and Sundays, America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some 50 years ago [and] is voluntarily socially segregated.”

Rubbish. It’s true that social self-segregation persists—especially, as Patterson has written, among “Afro-American students and young professionals.” But as Abigail Thernstrom points out in National Review Online: “In 1964 only 18 percent of whites said they had black friends; the figure today is 87 percent.” And the share of blacks with close white friends soared from 21 percent in 1975 to 82 percent in 2005. Sixty percent of whites report having black neighbors, up from 20 percent 50 years ago. A 2006 poll showed that half of the black respondents had dated whites and almost 40 percent of the whites had dated blacks.

Not to mention the black president, attorney general, former secretaries of state—one of whom served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—power brokers, authors, entertainers, athletes, multimillionaires, and current and former CEOs at some of America’s biggest companies.

You said, “It is not safe for this nation to assume that the unaddressed social problems in the poorest parts of our country can be isolated and will not ultimately affect the larger society.” True. But you offered not a clue about how to address those problems.
As I think you know, and should acknowledge, Mr. Attorney General: