Friday, February 27, 2009

I'm No Coward Mr. Holder

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.

7 comments:

Wulf said...

While I have no idea how to respond to Mr. Holder, I can respond to all of your comments with a hearty, "I agree."

Sadly, regarding skin color, I think we're becoming more sensitive as a nation rather than blind to it.

Donna said...

Hubby and I were SO Offended!!! How Dare He?!!!!
What in the Hell is going On with these people? We own a plumbing business, hire blacks, mexicans...and...hold on...Whites as Well!!!
The saying Use to be, "it's not the destination but the journey that counts"....Now it's, "the destination not the journey"...
We are SO...(banging head on desk).

Warren Adler said...

Thanks for your comments!

Kim Smith said...

Warren,

I have nominated you for a Premio Dardos Award.

you can see what it is all about on my blog, http://writingspace.blogspot.com

Best, Kim

Harold Michael Harvey said...

I disagree.

While your efforts, Mr. Adler, are to be commended, there remains a great divide in the country over race.

One does not have to look any further than the communication on most any blog on the internet these days.

You don't get it because it is not your ox that is getting gored.

You are talking at Mr. Holder and Mr. Holder is talking at the American people and neither of you are talking with each other.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. What the country need is a good conversation on Race, where the participates actually talk with each other.

Will you join me in convening such a conversation this year?

Delores J. Luker said...

I'm from Alabama and like you, my dad hired a black disc jockey in the sixties amid all the Jim Crow laws of the South. I was raised to be open-minded and to have integrity. Mobile recently elected a black mayor, which never created a ripple in the pond of life here. My friends in New York City thought it was something special. We've had black mayors all over the South. It's no big deal. I agree, the dialogue needs to open up between the races. The field has been leveled, now it's time to play ball by the same rules as everyone else.

Harold Michael Harvey said...

Delores J. Luker, I respectfully disagree. The playing field has not been leveled. Much has been accomplished and much still needs to be accomplished. If we truly had a conversation on this subject, we could all understand why some believe that the field has been leveled and why some believe that it has not and why some are indifferent to the topic.