Speaking frankly, I’m totally confused why Eric Holder, the new Attorney General of the United States called me a coward. Perhaps I am taking it too personally, since he accused the whole nation of being cowards.
Apparently, his accusation stems from some idea he has that there has not been enough truthful dialogue on the matter of race. This goes to the heart of my confusion. What am I supposed to say in such a dialogue? That racial discrimination is awful, that the blacks are descendants of slaves, a disgusting phenomenon that was abolished by the Emancipation Proclamation more than a century and a half ago? That America has done its darndest to correct the horrors of bigotry that stemmed from that enslavement era by passing civil rights legislation that guaranteed equal treatment under the law for everyone, whatever their race? That we should be vigilant in the protection of those rights?
Am I supposed to say we haven’t done enough to right the balance after passing numerous laws to give a leg up to help level the playing field in education, housing and whatever? I had, as did most Americans, no objections to offer our help to those of different races that were the victims of discrimination. Are there still problems? Yes. Has Mr. Holder suggested any solutions? If he has, we haven’t heard any.
Indeed, most of us were quite courageous in breaking down discrimination barriers in the face of often intransigent opposition by those who continued to espouse outmoded and wrongheaded ideas on bigotry and discrimination. To tell you the truth, I am rather proud of giving my assent to all these anti-discrimination measures.
So what lines do I use in this dialogue? Do I respond to any questions raised in this so-called dialogue or say simply that “I agree?” The Reverend King had it right. A man should be judged by the quality of his character and not the color of his skin. What decent American doesn’t believe that, Mr. Attorney General? Just ask your boss.
Better yet, look in the mirror and ask yourself. What kind of a dialogue would you have with yourself? What would you ask someone like yourself on the top of his game? Was your skin color a hindrance? Does the sobriquet “coward” also apply to you?
To tell you the truth, I don’t believe for one minute I’m a coward and I am rather pissed off at your inference.
I’ve also believed that the goal of our society, as Dr. King posited should be color blindness. That’s why I hired one of the first black salesman in the radio business in Baltimore to sell time on the station I once owned in that town. I didn’t care about breaking barriers. I just thought he would sell like hell. I hired black people in my advertising business on the basis of competence not the color of their skin or to make some kind of a statement. I wouldn’t even use a racial designation as a reference point if the Attorney General hadn’t brought it up.
When my wife ran her magazine in Washington, the Washington Dossier, in the seventies and eighties, she reveled in the magazine coverage of the fabulous and successful black community that has been part of Washington society for more than a hundred years. She particularly enjoyed covering the great Jack and Jill organization and the black Chirological Society events in the Shoreham ballroom. You know what I mean, Mr. Attorney General.
We never felt the slightest bit of cowardice in our association with those groups. In fact, we felt it an honor to be invited to their events, enjoying the company of many in the group with whom we had long lasting relationships. For us, race wasn’t even an issue. It wasn’t even part of the social dialogue.
Yes, Mr. Holder, as you must know there was a vibrant group of black achievers, of which you are the beneficiary, who had found ways to succeed by showing their courage and ingenuity in the face of once crushing odds. And they did it before the civil rights laws changed the game and opened the gates of opportunity even further. In the end, its talent, imagination, focus and hard work, not race, that makes the difference between failure and success in America. Just ask Barack.
Look around you Mr. Attorney General. Not every white person makes it up the greasy pole of American success. And not every black person, but plenty do, and you can bet your biddy that there will be more and more people of every hue coming up roses in future America. And why not?
We compete in this country. Sometimes guys and gals who don’t deserve it get the prize, but on balance the good, smart, hard working, innovative, imaginative and focused guys and gals win. Sure it’s a tough fight. As time goes on there will be less and less reason to handicap the odds. We’re getting a lot closer to an even race than we were a decade or so ago. Not because we are cowards, Mr. Attorney General. Because we are brave.
I’m willing to bet you’re a decent sort of guy, smart, savvy, experienced and when all is said and done probably qualified to run the justice department.
May I suggest that you simply add this gaffe about America being a nation of cowards to your collection of Hail Mary Passes and get yourself a new copy of Roget’s.