Attorney General Eric Holder's recent race-baiting statement that Americans are cowards about race has resulted in much criticism. The most thoughtful criticism I have read to date comes from Stuart Taylor:
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.
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
As I think you know, and should acknowledge, Mr. Attorney General:
• The major causes of these problems do not include contemporary white racism, which has been driven to the margins of society and has not been a serious obstacle to black advancement for at least two or three decades.
• The dominant cause is, rather, our tortured history: slavery and past discrimination, of course, but also the misguided welfare policies and cultural trends that did so much to destroy work incentives, foster irresponsible child-bearing and dependence on the dole, and break up poor families in the latter half of the 20th century.
Indeed, even as legal barriers to blacks fell and discrimination receded, the percentage of black children born out of wedlock soared from an estimated 15 percent in 1950 to 69 percent in 2000. (There was a similar but far less dramatic trend among whites.) "You name the social problem -- poverty, crime, substance abuse, doing poorly in school, dropping out -- and it correlates with growing up in a home without a father," in the words of conservative lawyer-scholar Roger Clegg.
If you really want an honest conversation and if you don't share the opposition of the vast majority of Americans (including me) to large racial preferences, please clarify specifically why you disagree. Also, please come to grips with the fact that these preferences do very little for truly poor people; that a substantial percentage of them go to middle- and upper-class blacks at the expense of less affluent Asians and whites; and that preferences harm some of their intended beneficiaries.
On this last point, please address the social-science research showing that virtually every selective college and university in the country discriminates so heavily in admissions that most black students cluster toward the bottom of the class and the best black students see their accomplishments stigmatized -- and that alarming percentages drop out.
And I would caution AG Holder on one further point. Those whites and asians who are being discriminated against may return the favor at some point in the future, should the opportunity present itself.