February 19th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

U.S. a “nation of cowards” when it comes to race?


Nearly 46 years after the March on Washington, the Attorney General says Americans remain in their "race-protected cocoons." (PHOTO CREDIT: AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Some tough words from the nation's first African-American attorney general.

Eric Holder says the U.S. is "essentially a nation of cowards" when it comes to openly talking about race relations.

Holder was speaking to Justice Department employees celebrating Black History Month. He says that although the workplace has become mostly integrated, Americans still self-segregate themselves on the weekends and in their free time. "Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," said Holder.

Holder says race is often a political discussion, but not one among average Americans. He says he was motivated by President Barack Obama's speech on race last fall. At the time, then-
candidate Obama called on the nation to break "a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years." He delivered that landmark speech to try to distance himself from the hateful sermons of his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Holder echoed Obama's words in saying there's still so much work to be done in this area. He called on people to be more honest with one another and open to criticism. The attorney general described Americans as being stuck in what he calls their "race-protected cocoons" and said that when it comes to how most of us spend our free time the country in some ways isn't so different from 50 years ago.

Here’s my question to you: Do you agree with Attorney General Eric Holder that the U.S. is a "nation of cowards" when it comes to race?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

CJ in Atlanta writes:
Jack, I agree with the attorney general. Race is a taboo topic, especially here in the South. There are still lots of racists among every race, especially among middle-aged to retiree-aged people. Until they move on, out of roles where they currently shape company and public policy, we who are among younger generations will not be able to make race an open topic for discussion.

Emma from Ashtabula, Ohio writes:
No, we are not a nation of cowards. Attorney General Holder is exhibiting traits of most of Pres. Obama's appointments so far: very intelligent, but with a total lack of common sense. Let’s hope that Holder is better at enforcing the law and the Constitution. Stick to what you are good at, Mr. Holder.

Tom from Philadelphia writes:
Who let the black man in on closed-door racism? We have gone from overt, in-your-face racism, to closed-door, let-me-make-sure-who-I-am-talking-to racism. Overall, on the outside it’s going away. But in the hearts and minds of many and in private, it’s the same as it always was. He is bold and brave to confront it. Good job.

Anne from Seattle writes:
Americans do have issues when it comes to being up front about matters of race. Yet using the word "coward" will do nothing to encourage more openness. Mr. Holder would have been wiser and have facilitated exchanges between all people if he had instead stated his willingness to engage in honest dialogue about race issues and encouraged all Americans to do the same. We've made significant progress and it's not the time to demean or speak negatively.

Jasmine from Germany writes:
Yes, I do agree. Blacks and whites (and all the others in our melting pot country) still continue to "blame" each other for whatever might not be just right. It's time to get over it… Holder is courageous to have made the statement. PS: I'm a Caucasian person, but why would I have to add that?

Filed under: Eric Holder • Race Relations
soundoff (132 Responses)
  1. Kevin in Dallas, TX

    Of course not. Holder is a reminant of a bygone era, unable to accept that our world has changed. Racism still exists, but relative to his generation, racists are few and far between, and their actions amount to nothing that a person with an ounce of willpower can't overcome.

    February 19, 2009 at 1:06 pm |
  2. Pablo in Tejas

    yeah, I pretty much have to agree with AG Holder on this one. However the motive for this reluctance to talk ain't all bad. Some of the cowardice involved arises from a wish not to inadvertently offend or be misunderstood. Maybe we should all start from the proposition that the very concept of RACE is a lie. It is bad science. Recent studies in the field of DNA prove that there is but one race; the human race. We have been and are all victims of a lie we have told ourselves for about three thousand years. If we will stop lying to ourselves and each other that would be a good start.

    Arlington Texas
    (a.k.a Paul R. Schattman, Ph.D.)

    February 19, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  3. Terry, Chandler AZ

    I'm a 60 year old white dude and a former bigot. AG Holder is 100 percent right on. We will continue to be cowards untill a time when we can all speak openly about all racial problems and differences.

    February 19, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  4. Bill in South Jersey

    The Attorney General is pretty close to the truth, but "cowards?" Probably not: as a people, we're pretty gutsy.

    I think "hypocrites" is much closer to what he's trying to convey.

    February 19, 2009 at 1:29 pm |
  5. Mike S., New Orleans

    Mr. Holder is exactly right: there has been a fear of having a dialogue about race relations in this country. Perhaps this is the time to begin one anew. And perhaps it is time for the vitriol and venom of the Jacksons and Sharptons to yield to a new generation.

    February 19, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  6. James Wallace

    Sure we are, myself included, and I say that as a white male. It's such a delicate issue, with so much wrong-doing and double standards (and no easy fixes) that we don't even want to have the conversation.

    It's so much easier to just say we're "post-racial" now that Obama is president, and not acknowledge the damage that must be repaired for a true cosmopolitan society.

    February 19, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  7. Tom, Avon, Me, The Heart of Democracy

    I know I am. I'm always expecting to put my foot in my mouth and be dependent upon a friend to let me slide on the grounds of ignorance rather than mal intent.

    February 19, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  8. Meg Ulmes from Troy, Ohio

    Yes, I do. We are still a childish nation when it comes to dealing with race. Too many Americans are closet bigots–at least where I live the Ku Klux Klan is still alive and well. My family is multi-racial as well as multi-generational and we've encountered bigotry and racism over the years. We've also discovered color-blind people as well. Overall, there is still too much racism and bigotry in America

    February 19, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  9. Julie

    I think he wants to get our minds off of the financial crisis.

    February 19, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  10. Ken in Pinon Hills, California

    Millions of cowards voted for a black president.

    February 19, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  11. Mickie

    When it comes to openly discussing issues that are about race, absolutely. (By the way, I'm 64, female and white.) There are some people who are blatantly racist, but those that won't admit it but who are, are even scarier.

    February 19, 2009 at 1:59 pm |
  12. Keith - Twinsburg, OH

    Yes, Jack. I tend to agree with him, but I think the biggest setback was when we all had to be 'politically correct'. (Not speak frankly..) The Civil Liberty's Union and the ACLU are all contributing to the issue. If we are constantly in fear of offending someone or being hit with a law suit, we will not progress.

    The bottom line is still the same, Jack... Too damn many lawyers.

    February 19, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  13. Dan

    Dear Jack,

    Yes we are cowards when it comes to this. MLK defined racism as judging a man by the color of his skin and not the content of his character. And we continue to do this - both white against African-American and African-American against white. White America has a long way to go before all the wounds they have inflicted on other races are healed. But there is also cowardice in the African American community which is, apparently, unwilling to even discuss its own role in the promotion of American racism through its own bias against whites. Is anyone ever going to address this. Now THAT would take courage. But until that happens, the racial divide in the country can never be truly bridged.

    February 19, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  14. John from Alabama

    Jack: I usually do not defend lawyers. I am usually the one telling all the lawyer jokes. Eric Holder's assessment about average citizens not talking about race in their free time is correct. We should always act like caring individuals and do not stero-type people. I am afraid that Eric Holder will not hear the honest discussions of race until we change our social networks or better yet expand our social networks. Eric it might not happen in your life time, but then I thought the Berlin Wall would never come down in my life time.

    John from Alabama

    February 19, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  15. Jackie in Dallas

    Well, in a way, Holder is correct. I've spent all of my 58 years of life in integrated situations; I grew up on Army posts that had already been integrated, and was involved in the integration of my high school in the 60s. I've worked for civil rights for years, and I've seen what I think is a deplorable falling back to some old patterns.

    But it does come from both sides of the race line. The hip-hop and rap culture, although having token whites, is in itself exclusionary. Racial pride to counter the years of low esteem is good, but can be taken too far. I think we have a few more generations to go before we can become truly "colorblind".

    February 19, 2009 at 2:09 pm |
  16. Susan from Twn Falls Idaho

    I think we are a nation that has come a long way baby. Ten years ago the odds that a black, Hispanic or female being put in his position were slim to none. Let's keep race and gender out of politics and keep on task.

    February 19, 2009 at 2:13 pm |
  17. Kyle- DuPont, WA

    Ok, we just elected the first African-American President based on his credentials and ability to lead and not because of his skin color. Now his Attorney General is saying that we are cowards because we are self-segregating on the weekends? C'mon! Look, he and President Obama are more than welcome to come to my house this weekend. I must warn them however, we are cooking Korean food so I hope neither of them are offended.

    February 19, 2009 at 2:14 pm |
  18. B. D.

    I'm afraid to answer that.

    February 19, 2009 at 2:14 pm |
  19. David in Indiana

    Sure we are. Everyone tries to be, "Politically Correct". We are afraid of saying the wrong thing. There are people out there who thrive on catching someone saying, writing, or drawing something that could be construed as offensive. The media plays it up and gives the issue legs that walk over everyone.

    Ignorance is rampant.

    February 19, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  20. mac from traverse city Michigan

    As a white man if I do talk out loud about fatherless black families, or the drug and crime problems in the inner city, or the culture that the welfare state created I am immediatly branded at best ignorant at worst a racist. I guess I have become a coward about discussing these issues because my opinions are discounted or not allowed because of my race.

    February 19, 2009 at 2:38 pm |
  21. Kyla from Chicago, IL

    We've come a long way Jack but have you been to Chicago? The south and west sides are predominately black and the North is white. Rarely do you ever see the two mix. To echo James Baldwin, we have a remarkable ability to turn bitter truths into innocuous confections – race relations included.

    February 19, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  22. lynn

    Yes, Jack I agree. The very fact that everyone assumes he is only speaking of the white/black relationship proves that. There are Latinos, Muslims, Asians, East Indians, Native Indians in America's population as well. That white people (I am a white woman) immediately go on the defensive and attack the messenger indicates a underlying hostility as President Obama experienced when people refused to shake his hand, kept portraying him as a Muslim and refused to accept his Hawaiin birth as accurate.

    Media like yourself went on and on about whether white men would vote for him and voting patterns are constantly diced up into ethnic background all indicate an over emphasis on race and treating citizens as monolithic groups.

    February 19, 2009 at 2:41 pm |
  23. thomas

    Jack, what the hell are we supposed to talk about? Are the black people supposed to ask the white people what its like to be white? and vice versa? the liberals are the ones who have the obvious race problems, because the average american doesn't look at the color of one's skin, but their character. Eric holder is an angry liberal democrat with a chip on his shoulder.

    February 19, 2009 at 2:41 pm |
  24. Gigi

    No I don't. I think if we quit worrying about the do and do not's. People would relax. There are some who have to have someone or race/religion/politics to put down. I don't believe they are the majority. Some whine to much and they need to ignore bad manners. Treat others as we want others to treat us. It's impossible not to like someone who treats you well.

    Who's fault is it? The one who brings attention to it. You hear it everyday. The black man, the fat woman, the catholic family. I believe these people have names.

    I believe we have become a nation of bad manners.

    February 19, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  25. George, Dunedin, Florida

    I don't think that there are many cowards in the U.S.A., maybe a few expresidents. but to say that all Americans are cowards when it comes to race includes me, and I beg to differ with Mr. Holder. Just because he is the Attorney General of the United States doesn't give him any right to put labels on anyone except himself without giving everyone else a chance to respond to his remarks. Namecalling is what makes enemies, and this is not a good time, or the right climate to make enemies. Mr. Holder would be a lot better off just doing his job of being the the TOP COP in the country, and allowing those who can make a difference do so. It is my opinion that Mr. Holder owes me an apolpgy....

    February 19, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  26. Mike, Albuquerque, NM

    Attorney General Eric Holder needs to get out more. I think he may have been isolating himself within his own little clique of self-righteous proffessional complainers. What I do in my free time and who I spend it with is none of his business. If he really want to address the race issue without cowardess then the best place for him to examine is the MIRROR.

    February 19, 2009 at 3:16 pm |

    In my lifetime, I have seen racism become more and more covert over time. There is less name calling, but still job applications are disregarded, law-abiding drivers are pulled over, and much, much more. I think to label this behavior as cowardly is exactly right. To deny or rationalize it is even worse.

    February 19, 2009 at 3:20 pm |
  28. Chryssa

    I believe Holder's generation is a bunch of cowards. Most of us born after 1965 could care less about another person's skin color.

    Boise, ID

    February 19, 2009 at 3:32 pm |
  29. Barbara - NC

    Yep – most people I know are nice to everyone's face, but behind their backs the names and derogatory Labels sure come out.

    If everyone expressed their fears, had a healthy non-yelling conversation, maybe some of the prejudice would be put to rest.

    February 19, 2009 at 3:35 pm |
  30. Howard M. Bolingbrook IL

    Unfortunately, the AG was correct as it relates to this subject.

    February 19, 2009 at 3:39 pm |
  31. JR in Norfolk VA

    Hard to believe, but I agree with Holder. For too long we have allowed the race-baiters on both sides to set the agenda and tone, which have been less than civil, open and honest. That means racial shakedown artists and self appointed "leaders" of the "black community" like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will have to sit on the sidelines while we have a frank discussion about racial issues.

    February 19, 2009 at 3:54 pm |
  32. Boz

    The US president has called for and put in place an accountability act, she should also follow the new and just rules, give up the truth, and let the people know.

    February 19, 2009 at 4:05 pm |
  33. Sly, Alpena, Mi

    As a "African American", Yes, very much so.

    February 19, 2009 at 4:08 pm |
  34. therealmarie

    Take a look at the NYPost's racial cartoon depicting the killing of a chimp by policemen and the stimulus statement. Cowardly depiction at it's best.

    February 19, 2009 at 4:11 pm |
  35. Larry from Georgetown, Texas

    I'm not and quite frankly the more we focus on the problem, it will get worse so we need to focus on the solution. I'll discuss any issue at any time with these people or anyone else but they don't want to listen, they just want to complain.

    February 19, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  36. Bob

    I agree. The problem of race has been with us ever since black people were shipped to this country to work as slaves.

    There have been many improvements in race relations, most of which occurred in the last fifty years, but nevertheless there is still a tendency to take the easy way out and pretend that the problem no longer exists when in fact it does exist.

    Louisville, Ky

    February 19, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  37. Sandra fromTexas

    Pretty much. We always have been.

    February 19, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  38. Sarah

    A nation of cowards? I would support that statement in general but I don't think it is exclusive to race. There are many issues in our country that we choose to sweep under the rug that need addressing but unfortunately no one is brave enough, if you will, to do something about it.

    February 19, 2009 at 4:19 pm |
  39. Marjorie Lominy

    I am happy to report that we have 69 millions "non cowards" who pulled the lever for President Obama,

    February 19, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  40. Jay in Texas

    No. Americans simply exercise the few freedoms our attorney generals and presidents have not stolen from us. One of them is the right to associate with whomever we choose.
    Brownwood, Texas

    February 19, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  41. Keith

    Yes we are. I worked in an office with no one the same color as me. Once I did an "Amazing Job", they began hiring others. This was in 2006. The lack of diversity in the labor sector is an example of cowardes. I've found that people especially the ones you work with refuse to admit or discuss their racial issues. I blame all of this on the lack of education and exposure.

    February 19, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  42. don in naples, florida

    Our water supply is diminishing; natural resources are on a sharp decline; we have severe economic hardships facing this country for the next couple of years; and, not too mention the u.s. has to rebuild many burned bridges from the last 8 years. How is it that race is still something people can't come to grips with??

    February 19, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  43. Lynn, San Diego

    His message is correct, maybe his words are a little harsh but what is it going to take to wake up people to the fact that we still segregate without thought or discussion. I think we should take it as he meant it, "Hey America, we're not there yet, don't get complacent."

    February 19, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  44. Tommy

    Yeah, pretty much. As a 51 year old man, I do have one black friend and one gay friend. I think that's pretty radical for a born and raised Alabamaian.

    February 19, 2009 at 4:36 pm |
  45. william fitzwater

    The US is a nation of cowards when it comes to race relations. In the working environment people would never call any one a the "N" word to thier face if they are going to get fired for it but behind thier backs they will stir up all sorts of dessention.

    February 19, 2009 at 4:42 pm |
  46. Junior Doh

    Jack I personally think this is a nation of coward when it comes to race. As a teen race does not play any effect but i will not sit and discuss race with any of my classmate. I also beleive race have been avoided so much that Mr.holder saying this will draw negative attention. Nothing he said is wrong and we all know that deep down he is right but the only promblem with that is he is an Attorney General . So Jack agree or disagree he is correct and a big deal should not have been made from this.

    p.s i turn 14 on jan 20. Hi barack we all love you and my my aunt wants to marry you.

    February 19, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  47. KimSmith, Dodge City, Kansas

    How, and with whom, I spend my free time is one of the few freedoms we have left in this country. For Mr. Holder to insinuate that I am a racist just because I don't fill my "free-time" and weekends with people I don't have anything in common with, is absurd. Get over it Mr. Holder.

    February 19, 2009 at 4:49 pm |
  48. Tom from Philly

    Who let the black man in on closed door racism??? We have gone from overt in your face racism, to closed door let me make sure who I am talking to racism. Overall on the outside its going away, but in the hearts and minds of many and in the groups of the few in private, its the same as it always was. He is bold and brave to confront it, good job

    February 19, 2009 at 4:53 pm |
  49. Ronald Bob

    Eric is right!

    February 19, 2009 at 5:10 pm |
  50. Alton Drew

    Mr. Holder's job is to enforce the law, not force everyone to get along.

    Alton E. Drew

    February 19, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  51. CaliforniaAfrican

    Come on, Jack. Of course Mr. Holder was right. I believe most people did not know what it would mean to have such educated Black people who are not afraid to speak their minds, in the White House. Hold on to your hats, America, Black people have their own perspective and you just may be a bit shocked that it's not yours.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  52. Peter Schlech

    If by a nation of cowards he means people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson whose failure to confront .50 cent, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg as the real enemies of African American progress, I completely agree.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  53. Sandra Schutt

    I am personally sick of hearing about it! Maybe if the press would stop putting a qualification on every damned story it would cease to be an issue. On every single story you hear African American, Asian American, Latino American.....what the hell happened to just American. Yes I am White, middle aged, was middle class, but if I hear about Obama being an African American one more time I'm coming for you guys!!

    February 19, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  54. Liana from CA

    Yes, I do agree. Just look at the outrage over his comment. If this wasn't a nation of cowards when it comes to race and issues on race people wouldn't be so upset. We have to be frank and honest about the history of racism in this country and the continued racism still out there in order to become more tolerant of one another regardless of skin color or ethnicity!!

    February 19, 2009 at 5:13 pm |
  55. Antonnette

    I agree with Eric Holder. People think that because we elected the first African American President, we are above the race issue. In our daily lives we are still very segregated: at lunch, at work, on Sundays at church, our friends. There is still a lot of mistrust and unreconciled feelings among blacks and whites. It's time that we started accepting and loving people for who they are: a valuable member of the human race.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  56. Katherine in Spring, Tx

    We are not cowards! We have more to deal with than Mr. Holder acknowledged. We have racism, reverse racism, foreign workers and politically generated hostility for illegal immigrants. Maybe Mr. Holder is a coward and he is accusing every one of his own short comings.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  57. g-man

    Cowards? No. Just sick of the crap from the likes of Sharpton and the rest. If we use the N word (not that we should!) we get lambasted. If an African American uses any white derogatory word... it's like... meh... whatever. So essentially it's like a mexican standoff. We have "melted" together, but the cultures still sit far apart.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  58. Melissa (Brooklyn, NY)

    In communities; Americans continue to move to where they're are comfortable, and for the most part that means sticking to their own kind. People still continue to lump each other in stereotypes instead of getting to know each other. I went to High School in Kentucky and I remember walking into a class room where the whites sat with whites, the blacks sat with blacks and the exchange students sat with the other exchange students. They didn't even realize until the teacher said something and made them move around. It's like we're mentally still segregated. And it's isn't a white thing: it's everyone.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  59. Judi Miles, Cleveland Heights, OH

    Cowards, yes, but also curious. And with good reason. We are all too touchy, because no matter what race you are, you are at a disadvantage to understand someone else's racial experience.

    I say we focus on having more meals with people from other cultures. Good food, good drink and good conversation can sometimes bridge divides that no amount of political correctness can.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  60. Hugh McElroy

    Broad-brush statements like Mr. Holder's usually over/understate reality. However, I believe the older one is is the more his statement becomes.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  61. Joe Gilbert

    I agree with the Attorney General's assesment on race. Having worked for 36 years at DFW Airport I witnessed lots of friction while on the job. Off duty there was almost no mixing of the races. Lots of back talking on both sides. Maybe it is just Texas?

    February 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  62. tim

    Jack, who do you surround yourself with on the weekends? I think we all stay within our comfort zones people.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  63. Montie LeStrange

    I wonder what the make-up of the Atty. General's neighborhood is?

    February 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  64. Mike

    Mr. Holder is a racist. Instead of appreciating the fact that whites and other non-blacks elected President Obama, Mr. Holder seeks to fan the flames of racism. Are other races also to blame for the black drop out rate in high schools and the high rate of pregnancy of black women in high schools. Perhaps Mr. Holder should first show his competency in his job before he fans the flames of racism.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  65. Julianne H

    Eric is too young, he slept through his history classes – or both. There was nothing cowardly about those who risked everything to help slaves escape via the underground railroad, or those who marched under threat of police dogs and fire hoses. We may never erase bigotry completely – and we need to engage in active dialog, but cowardly? NO WAY!

    February 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  66. Willie Graves

    Jack it seems to me the AG was right on. We have a history here in the U S of talking at the problem of race relations never much about them. Way to go Eric.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  67. Rob

    Nation of Cowards? I don't barely even know what that means. And how does this issue become the responsibility of an Attorney General? I can't blame us, anytime anyone has anything to say about African-Americans, they better get ready to pucker up to Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  68. P.J. Odu Santee, California

    The new attorney general is very perceptive and obviously right in his assessment. While the election of Obama has gone a long way to open new opportunities, the truth is that it will take at least one more generation for integration to be complete. America is very efficient at masking their real feeling on the subject of racisim.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  69. Anonymous

    I agree with this to some extent. Many Americans are so closed minded these days, so they do not want to meet people of different races and different backgrounds. They have a 20th century mindset in a 21st century society, a society where integration among races is supposed to happen. They see others of different race as being different and they do not want to meet them. But if Americans had an open mind, which some Americans do, and they do not try to self-segregate, they will find others of other races not different, but interesting, because different races have different and interesting backgrounds. It is not a matter of cowardice, but a matter of open or closed mindedness and receptiveness to new ideas.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  70. Gary in Houston

    A nation of cowards? No. Segregated? Yes.

    That is because there are still large cultural differences between the races, be it white, black, asian, etc. We feel more comfortable with people who are more like us .. they understand our jokes, like similar things, eat the same foods, etc.

    We can appreciate other cultures, but at a distance.

    Houston Texas

    February 19, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  71. Fabiola Behncke

    I agree with it! After watching "right america:feeling wronged" I can tell racism is still strong in SOME parts of the US. America has come a long way by electing a capable black man as a president yet as an Hispanic female people would first ask me for a drink at a party before they realize I am a professional.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  72. Sheila Hard

    I agree with almost all of Atty Gen. Holder's observations, but I believe the summary "a nation of cowards" is needlessly provcative. If we should be open the criticism, I hope that he will hear this criticism and consider apologizing for a poor choice of words. (BTW, I'm 57 years old and have lived most of my life in California. Although I've had very good on-the-job relationships with African Americans, I can count on one hand the # of times I have had them as a guest in my home, or been a guest in theirs. Of course, these days my housekeeping has gotten so bad that no one gets invited over.)

    February 19, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  73. keith

    I think he is right, however as a white male I have been beat down by 20 years of political correct talk that if I did talk race with someone other than white I have to watch everything I say because I might get sued or arrested.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  74. Jaime Andres

    As a person of mixed ancestry who looks White. I have hung around and seen most sides drop their guard. Hispanic, White, Black. And what I see is not a nation of cowards, but a nation full of ignorance and stereotypes that still make people remain apart in the social arena or partake in it based on set social stereotypes of how to interact.

    This of course does not represent every American as many are very open people with open minds, but it does represent a huge trend.

    Al three groups still don't seem to realize that there is a huge gamut within each population and that one sub group with characteristics they may not like does not represent the whole ethnic group. All three, and I'm sure others do this consistently.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  75. Alexander - Seal Beach, CA

    No way Jack – not a nation of "cowards"! When I was in the Marines 25 years ago, we all learned to ether that there are no "White" Marines or "Black" Marines, only "Green" Marines – if we would have a mandatory National Service, all our young men would learn how to get along with each other at that early age, right from the beginning – what we need is the courage to require more from our young men to serve their country in the form of some National Service and learn how to work together, no matter what their background.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  76. Burton Strait

    Not onlly Race, but Religion and Politics should be added to the list. There really not a lot of really good people in this country. If there was, the social issues would have been solved long ago and there would be far fewer on sided votes on issues before the U S Congress.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  77. Garvin

    that statement was on point , I am a resident alien from a Caribbean Island and have learned racism and racial divide in america in my short 12year stay, the younger generation seem to have the open minds on this issue.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:18 pm |
  78. Rocky Hernandez

    Rule #1 when appointed to Attorney General: Don't call your nation a "nation of cowards".

    February 19, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  79. D Clark

    Who does Holder think he is, telling us how to live? It is not even illegal to be a bigot (except to Holder).

    February 19, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  80. Nancy

    I live in Miami and I think the Attorney general is right, it is our guilty conscience that is forcing us to highlight this comment. At least someone in leadership has the courage to say what we all know to be true and are too timid to speak about.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  81. Joe Gilbert

    I agree with Holder. Having retired in Texas after 36 years at a major company there was tension on duty. There was little or no mixing after working hours. I think it might be a Texas thing.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  82. Gregory K Young

    Eric Holder is almost correct about Americans being cowards when it comes to race relations. As a black man the fear I have when talking about race to a white person is that they will say something that will be insulting. And I can't say for certain but I feel that whites don't want to talk about race because they feel that they may say something that will make the black person they're speaking to upset. Both sides are partially correct. When Obama was running for president the things that I saw and heard as a black man caused my blood pressure to go through the roof. And these comments came from people that I worked with, not to mention the stupid stuff I heard on CNN.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  83. Merlin Gentry (American who happens to be Black)

    I disagree with Eric Holder. As an American who happens to be black I believe he beclouded his important message with this inappropriate comment. You would think that any public figure would know by now that when you begin a statement with "We are a nation of...", then you ought to be careful with the next word that follows. Because that singular word would generate controversy to obscure the core message, no matter the merits of that message.

    Even on his message, Eric would not be Attorney General and Barack would not be President if America was cowardly. In fact on this issue the whole world is very proud of America.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  84. Major Hooper

    There is a segment of the population of all races that are wallflowers when it comes to social interaction but this nation has demonstrated we're willing to dance with anyone now, anytime, anywhere and enjoy it.
    Major Hooper
    Stumpy Point, NC
    Not the end of the world but you can see it from here. ( :

    February 19, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  85. Dan Wayment

    I went through the riots as a member of the US Army.

    Though some things have changed significantly, the reality is that we are very separate when we return home each night. Race is very different once the office door closes!

    For some there is no help for those who are so bogged down in race. Racism will die with them. Thank God their children, for the most part, don't think like they so!

    Yes Holder is right on in my extensive experience!

    February 19, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  86. Dannelle

    Dear Jack,
    I'm a black woman married to a white man living in TEXAS, in fact, about 40 minutes away from the new residence of former President Bush, Preston Hollow, which, until 2002, excluded blacks from the neighborhood via the homeowners association. Mr. Holder is correct in that we are cowards when we do not acknowledge the injustice for those of a different race in private arrangements such as these. I will also say that I am so grateful for the will of most Americans to address these wrongs, however slowly, over time. As President Obama says, change doesn't happen overnight – the fact that he is President is the result of change slowly happening in the hearts of Americans over a period of decades. Have a great afternoon Jack.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  87. Diane Blaine

    I was so disappointed in the comments of the new Attorney General. This is just the kind of speech the does nothing to improve race relations, but makes worse. He sounds like an angry man that has been repressed by our society, never given a chance instead of the Attorney General of the United States. Inspiring people to change is far more effective that making insulting comments that just make people angry.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  88. Brenda

    Yes, I agree. Let's not act like things are okay now racially because of the past election. And, I like the idea of the head of "justice" in this country taking the lead in initiating this much needed conversation. You can't resolve things if you don't even acknowledge that a problem exists.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:21 pm |
  89. Dan in Seattle

    As a white guy who was married to a black woman I have experienced reversed racism first-hand. My point is, I hope Mr. Holder was also speaking about that. While it's true there is a lot of work by whites still to be done, there is also a great deal of "black racism", especially among young blacks, which needs to be addressed. So if we "need" to be more honest re racism lets really be honest and open the discussion with the premise that BOTH whiles and blacks can be racist. Then a true and honest discussion can begin.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:21 pm |
  90. Randy

    Dear Mr. Cafferty,

    It is Mr. Holder who is the big coward for not makng this
    statement when he was a flunky in the Justice Department
    instead of waiting to be in the position he is in now.

    Randy , South Carolina.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:21 pm |
  91. Rebecca P., Dallas, TX

    In general Holder is correct. I still come across people that cringe when I mention anything about race. The majority race doesn't want to talk about race. It makes them feel bad, I think, to venture into America's past and truly discuss the wrongs that were done to African Americans, amongst others. Fact is fact, however, and we are where we are. We cannot get rid of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Employment, because people STILL prejudge others by the color of their skin. If you give people the choice of who they want to work along side or to whom they would like to give an education, they most likely will choose those with whom they are already comfortable. For most of us, that means people who look and think like us. Until we evolve mentally from such idiosyncracies these items MUST STAY IN PLACE. Until you look at me and see an AMERICAN and not a "BLACK" AMERICAN, they need to stay in place.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  92. charlotte molloy

    Who does Mr. Holder think he is. I don't accept anyone calling me a coward at any time. Let him work in an inner city type ER , and help a multitude of people, most of whom do not speak english, and say there is no love and empathy for my neighbors. A smile and a helping hand goes a lot farther than his accusations. I'll bet the soldiers serving overseas don't accept his label either.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  93. Beverly

    The fact that the white media talking heads are more focused on Eric Holder's analogy than they are about the clearly racist cartoon in the NY Post is proof that we are a nation of cowards when it comes to discussing race relations. We are afraid to address real racist issues such as that sick cartoon.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  94. Janett

    Holder is right, and those who disagree are probably the very ones he's talking about. He has called us to action. Now what are we going to do?

    February 19, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  95. tim

    jack, no matter if we have an african american president,, there still going to be racism and hate in the world. so until people learn and love each other, then world will be better place.


    February 19, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  96. James

    Yes, he is right about several points. Americans do self-segregate within their social lives and time away from the workplace. Although we get along and tolerate on another during the work week, its rare the same people who are so cordial during the week socialize on Saturday or Sunday. Its even more rare that deep friendships develop across racial lines. In fact, Sunday morning – during the church hour – is still the most segregated time slof in America.

    Even on college campuses – self segregation is rampant.

    Cowards? Yes. But why? Why are we afraid to have open and frank conversations about race relations in America? I think we are afraid because we either don't want to be perceived as racist or someone that has to provide history lessons on why people who have been oppressed for many years respond in certain ways. So, I think its easier not to have these discussions and to avoid the potential backlash.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  97. Terry

    In response to the blogger who said millions of "cowards" voted for a Black President, there were millions of cowards that didn't.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  98. Harris

    I concider myself fairly liberal, and very accepting of others beliefs and situation in life. But (ie; here come the truth) I believe Mr. Holder's comments are right on. Truthful. I don't take issue with his true statements, and it doesn't surprise me to see others do. The truth does that to many people.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  99. Bill Plante

    Holder is right. I'm 72, white, and don't consider myself racist in any stretch of the word. But I've never had a close friendship with anyone black. I've had only one black friend – when I was stationed in Morocco years ago. For some reason, neither I nor someone black tried to strike up a friendship. I never tried to understand someone from India until my SECOND business trip there. Yeah, that racial coward problem is everyone's problem, not just the whites. We're too slow to realize we're really all brothers and sisters.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  100. biba

    Marc from traverse city michigan...I understand where you are coming from...I am a black female from Senegal Africa...i do recognize that there are many issues in the black community in this country...but we have to be careful not to fall on generalizations...not all black men are fatherless and not all of them are criminals....hopefully people can listen to each other and avoid stereotyping one another.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  101. MS

    Yes I do agree. Blacks will understand where he was coming from . The question was asked by a reporter why blacks live mostly in the urban citys. Well, it doesn't really matter because if we move to a surburb...the whites begin to migrate out. Just look and examine the Detroit situation. We did not choose to have an almost complete black city, we were left with it.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  102. Angela

    I whole-heartedly agree. Americans have always displayed a "bully" mentality and bullies never want to discuss what they did wrong and why it was wrong. They only want to say, "I'm sorry and let's move on." Slavery and racism is a spiritual, psychological, and moral crime. For a country that claims to be founded under God with "liberty and justice for all," to not confront and discuss racism to dis-spell myths and learn more about each other, is a shame.

    Hampton, Virginia

    February 19, 2009 at 5:25 pm |
  103. Norm

    Holder should get himself a life before he critiques ours. The fact that different ethnic groups do not hang out together as much in their free time is the result of cultural diversity. I can not speak to the current generation...but when I was a teen I do not remember encountering any African American Metallica Fans, or conversely, any caucasian Public Enemy fans.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:25 pm |
  104. Lisa, Bethlehem, PA

    Jack, I think the nation is still cowards when it comes to anyone who is not a white christian. I have seen so much back woods thinking that I am sick of it. My religion is hated because it is not Christian, my children are refered to as "those people" at school meetings just because they are Autistic. If we are supposed to be the "Great Melting Pot" then the more stuff in the pot should make it better.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:25 pm |
  105. Francine from Rockville MD

    My best friend is Albanian, my co-workers are all white Americans, the guy I am dating is African, my closest friends are from the Caribbean, and my favorite food is middle eastern. If you can guess my race I will give you a million dollars. I'm Rwandan. I have been her for 16 years. I love America. I think Mr Holder is living on a different planet.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  106. Chief

    I agree with Holder. People do not like to talk about race because some people are overly sensative about race. In my office we do not talk about race, religion or politics because it usually causes a very heated debate. So we avoid these topics to keep the peace.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  107. Kimberley from Texas

    A lot of people are cowardly when it comes to race. They'd rather use the "I'm color-blind" excuse to avoid discussing the hard topics and issues. It's refreshing to encounter people who are willing to have open and respectful dialog on the topic. I find it a bit insulting when someone tells me that they are color-blind, because I just don't feel that it's an honest or reality based response.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  108. Roger

    Yes We Are. It takes a lot to have an effective conversation without anger in this country. The fact is, blacks have more white friends than whites have black friends. It's comes down to people letting go of their hate. It's sad, but this country is still dealing with the race issue.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  109. Jeff in Minnesota

    I don't think we're cowards so much as we do not know how to talk about race. It seems that whenever any dialog regarding race even attempts to get started it rapidly turns into a shouting match about how insensitive whites are and how blacks have special rights because they were slaves. At some point, we all just have to move on and look to the future and get beyond the mistakes of the past. However, as long as there are people that continue to dredge up the past, we'll never get there.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  110. Wendy, VA

    Absolutely. I hear it everyday. People only talk to their friends about it. It is just the same as when I was young. I am white and now 68 years old. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now. Blame the parents as young people are not born with hate. It has been taught to them. As long as it is passed on, racism will never end. It's that simple.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  111. Dave in Ohio

    I completely agree with Holder's comments. We remain a nation stratified by race, and even more so by class. We carefully protect our own – we are only secure when "us" and "them" are clearly defined. We are trained from day one to compete. We are exposed from day one to a continuous barrage of consumerist propaganda. We are seldom reminded of the value of communication and compassion and sharing. Is it any wonder that we strive only to protect ourselves, and that as a nation we stay segregated by culture, class and race?

    February 19, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  112. Mark, Centerport, L.I., NY

    Jack, I bet President Obama wasn't too happy with the AG's choice of words regardless of the statement's validity. "Coward" is a very explosive word, to be used sparingly and very selectively.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:27 pm |
  113. Nate Jonker

    It seems like when I’m talking to my acquaintances who are overweight, with a southern drawl, or are people of color, those issues creep into the conversation. On the other hand, when I talk to my friends who are overweight, from the south, or are people of color, those characteristics never come up…they are friends. Maybe our challenge is to integrate our schools, churches, and neighborhoods so that the acquaintances from work become real friends and neighbors.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:33 pm |
  114. Cameron NV

    Your suppose to give us hope not accuse us after deeds youprobably take part in. you do not know everyone in this country personally.so dont act like you do. your making look stupid so do this “whole country a favour” “because i know everyone personally” “Be quiet” now does that sound right to you?

    February 19, 2009 at 5:33 pm |
  115. G. Wagner

    Why is Eric Holder calling us a nation of cowards when it comes to race? Did we not just elect our first African-American President? Was he not elected solely due to his qualifications for the job, with race not being a factor? Sure, there was a lot of mudslinging during the campaign from both sides, but at the end of the day, the election was held, and Mr. Obama won. Eric Holder was appointed by Mr. Obama, but with hindsight being 20/20, was Holder the best man for the job, or is he using the platform to air long-held grievances against Whites? Think about it.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:36 pm |
  116. Straum

    Why are people so uncomfortable with what Eric Holder said? Well, because it was honest and a jolt to the fact that even with the nations first African American President, we still refuse to talk about race. When we can have an honest conversation about race in America, only then will comments like Holders not make us cringe. Well done Holder!


    February 19, 2009 at 5:40 pm |
  117. Rick


    Eric Holder says I'm a coward. I'm a disabled War veteran nope no coward there. I grew up in a black community nope no coward there. I lived through the riots in my city nope no coward there either. I guess Holder must have been speaking about himself.

    What I do know is this. When a black man becomes powerful they speak with fork tongue and never help there own kind of lower status then themselves. Tell holder to come to Western NY and live in the worst part of the city, and attend the worst city school, let Holder hear how his youth of his culture speaks to each other using the "N" word.

    How dare he call me a coward I fought for this country what WAR have Holder been in. I had black men watch my back in Vietnam as I them. How dare this man call me a coward he is a disgrace in my eyes. and need to apologize to America on National Television.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:40 pm |
  118. Paul, Charles Town, WV

    According to Phil Gramm we are a "nation of whiners". Now Eric Holder says we are a "nation of cowards". So, now we are a nation of whiny cowards. Our elected officials are really pumping me up, here, Jack.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:40 pm |
  119. Neil K, Lake Forest CA

    Eric Holder is absolutely right. Race relations continue to be a touchy subject in public. We are not yet near the day when people are judged solely by the content of their character, but the good news is that we are obviously moving toward that goal. The fact that millions of white, black, brown, yellow, and red people came together to elect a multiracial man the president of this country is evidence of that.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:41 pm |
  120. Mohammed in Massachusetts

    Jack, No I don't agree with Mr. Holder. I lived in a few countries and I think America is the best place for a minority to live freely. America is a country where every person regardless of background could be an active member in society. Maybe Mr. Holder should live in Europe or Asia for a while he might appreciate America more.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:41 pm |
  121. Nick Kafoglis

    The fact that churches are largely segregated is not so much to do with racism as the fact worship is largely different in most black and white churches. The differences are largely cultural and not racist/

    February 19, 2009 at 5:42 pm |
  122. Syd Talbot

    No I don't agree. People have different views on race according to their age. My grandchildren (I'm 66) do not see color the same way I did in my early twenties. They see all people and friends divided by what the individual is interested in, not their color or ethnic background.
    Syney, Central Florida

    February 19, 2009 at 5:42 pm |
  123. jackson

    Everybody over twenty knows Holder is telling the truth. He said what everybody before him was too coward to say.

    He spoke about something all of you news people want to put a slant on it. And when you do get somebody to talk about it, you bring on people like little innocent Amy to refute what Holder said, because she is trying so hard not to live the Black experience. All of you need to be real and face up to what Black folk talk about when you are not around.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:42 pm |
  124. James

    Many people would feel a certain way about what was said, but i dont. Honestly speaking I feel that race is a subject that we avoid in many shape or forms. Our Attorney General is correct when he stated that we are cowards. Speaking a true statment that we accept race on a 9-5 schedule or an 8 hour period, I think we should not fault him in what we call a comment as well as his own opinion. Lets not ridiculy his action, just take it and move forward to bridge the gaps in what we call a corrupt system.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:44 pm |
  125. H. R

    Yes. Are you a coward Jack?

    February 19, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  126. Richard

    Holder is right to a degree. The problem with race nowadays is this, we tolerate each other. Plain and simple. Yes, there is still racism and prejudice in America, and that is because there are still a lot of ignorant people walking around out there. Another reason is that "white america" has had it pounded into there heads that what has happened in the past was wrong and was our fault. YES, is was wrong, but people need to remember what the Civil War, was partly and mostly about. Freeing people from oppression, white and black people fought for the same result. No, it wasnt every white persons fault that slavery happened.
    Most of us today, weren't even alive when this happened.
    We segregate ourselves still because for a lot of people out there, there is still animosity, and it is wrongly placed. Everyone has their own misconceptions, and when you do not allow yourself to be open minded or willing to change, how can we ever truly live with equality?
    No one is asking anyone to forget what has happened in the past, we need to remember. But we also need to move forward as a united America. I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic, for which it stands, ONE nation, under god, INDIVISIBLE, with Liberty, and Justice FOR ALL.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  127. Virginia Beach - Rogers

    I believe he should have said a Nation of Liars or Deceivers. This very blog proves the point. EVERYONE who has ever worked in an office or multi-cultural environment – (or gone to church) absolutely KNOWS Attorney General Holder's comments are true. NOW we are having a conversation that the moderator and Blog Guru (you Jack) won't even (a) face, or (2) speak even now. Most (I didn't say all) white men feel uncomfortable in an environment where they have to deal with black men and would MUCH rather hire (in this order) a white man, white woman, black woman – before hiring and having to work/associate/conversate with a black man. Why would anyone be upset by this comment. We lie to ourselves even now if we deny the Attorney General's or these comments. Am I right Jack? If you want to have a REAL useful discussion on this topic, lets admit the truth first -then we can move forward. By lying and denying...we stay stuck in the stone ages.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  128. James

    America is not just a piece of land that different races can take ownership and claim it their race land. Think about what united states of ameria is and the benefits for it. Now think about united races in america and what it will mean for our country apart from racial division.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:48 pm |
  129. Tina L.

    Look – as a biracial 20something year old, I think Holder is right. It's not only a black-white issue. I can't count how many times in school at lunch all the black kids hung out with each other, all the white kids mostly hung out with themselves, same with the Hispanics, Asians, etc. Same on the weekends, in a club, in a neighborhood. It may not be official, but in Los Angeles we do self-segregate, either out of habit or safety (be with who/what you know). It's not that people of different races don't interact; they do as a matter of fact. But it's not a place of comfort to go beyond that. Hypocritical or cowardly, Holder's message is true.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:50 pm |
  130. Bob

    If we are a Nation of Cowards we certainly deserve some modest credit.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:50 pm |
  131. Tony Minnesota

    I do not agree with his statement that our nation is a nation of cowards when it comes to racism. The reason that racism does not go away is because certain people keep calling the race card and invoking hatred within each other. There is a lot more racism going on again whites than there are african americans anymore. I think it's time whites start bringing up the race card from now on and keep the bar even so to speak! No matter how good it gets with controlling racism, Al Sharpton and others will dig and dig and dig till they find something to complain about!

    February 19, 2009 at 5:51 pm |
  132. Sheila (Maryland)

    As long as the vast majority feels compelled to identify a person by his or her race, we will continue to be a nation of cowards. We are so quick to identify the President as Black, yet he is also half White You don’t hear much discussion about that. At an unconscious level, there are many who are still uncomfortable about the idea of racial mixing, and the belief that as long as you have one drop of black blood you will never be “like them,” Cowards they are; for failing to confront their own prejudices.

    February 19, 2009 at 5:54 pm |