I could think of no better topic for today’s show than the chronic problem of racism in America.
I am not a supporter of Eric Holder’s. I think he’s done a lousy job as Attorney General, but he sure did deliver a brilliant speech at the NAACP convention in Orlando yesterday.
In case you missed it, it’s worth a view or a read of the transcript.
I played some of the pertinent parts on the show this morning, including these quotes:
This afternoon I want to assure you of two things: I am concerned about this case and – and as we confirmed last spring, the Justice Department has an open investigation into it.
Now — while that inquiry is ongoing, I can promise that the Department of Justice will consider all available information before determining what action to take.
But independent of the legal determination that will be made, I believe this tragedy provides yet another opportunity for our nation to speak honestly — honestly — and openly about the complicated and emotional (sic), charged issues that this case has raised.
Years ago, some of these same issues drove my father to sit down with me to have a conversation — which is no doubt familiar to many of you — about how, as a young black man, I should interact with the police, what to say and how to conduct myself if I was ever stopped or confronted in a way that I thought was unwarranted.
Now I’m sure my father felt certain at that time that my parents’ generation would be the last that had to worry about such things for their children.
Since those days, our country has indeed changed for the better. The fact that I stand before you as the 82nd attorney general of the United States, serving in the administration of our first African American president, proves that. Yet, for all the progress that we’ve seen, recent events demonstrate that we still have much more work to do and much further to go.
The news of Trayvon Martin’s death last year, and the discussions that have taken place since then, reminded me of my father’s words so many years ago and they brought me back to a number of experiences I had as a young man, when I was pulled over twice and my car searched on the New Jersey Turnpike when I’m sure I wasn’t speeding, or when I was stopped by a police officer while simply running to a catch a movie, at night in Georgetown, in Washington, D.C. I was, at the time of that last incident, a federal prosecutor.
So Trayvon’s death last spring caused me to sit down to have a conversation with my own 15-year-old son, like my dad did with me. This was a father-son tradition I hoped would not need to be handed down. But as a father who loves his son and who is more knowing in the ways of the world, I had to do this to protect my boy. I am his father, and it is my responsibility, not to burden him with the baggage of eras long gone, but to make him aware of the world that he must still confront. This is a sad reality in a nation that is changing for the better in so many ways.
It’s time to strengthen our collective resolve to combat gun violence, but also time to combat violence involving or directed toward our children, so we can prevent future tragedies. (Applause.) And we must confront the underlying attitudes, the mistaken beliefs and the unfortunate stereotypes that serve too often as the basis for police action and private judgments.
Separate and apart from the case that has drawn the nation’s attention, it’s time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods. (Cheers, applause.) These laws try to fix something that was never broken. There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if — and the “if” is important — if no safe retreat is available.
But we must examine laws that take this further by eliminating the common-sense and age-old requirement that people who feel threatened have a duty to retreat, outside their home, if they can do so safely. By allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety.
The list of resulting tragedies is long and, unfortunately, has victimized too many who are innocent. It is our collective obligation; we must stand OUR ground to ensure — (cheers, applause, music) — we must stand our ground to ensure that our laws reduce violence, and take a hard look at laws that contribute to more violence than they prevent.
That’s just a taste. I encourage you to read or watch the whole thing. Then, we must hold him to these words. We’ve heard great speeches before; it’s time now for action.
This morning, I welcomed the always brilliant Tim Wise back to the show. He’s a prolific author and essayist, educator and expert on the subject of racism. He’s the author of six books – all about race in America, with a seventh and a film on the way.
Although I realized I had to invite Tim back on the show as soon as I realized that race was not to be considered part of this case – but that’s exactly what it was about, what I read on his website was the best post-verdict piece I’ve seen.
You remember, forever and forever, that moment when you first discover the cruelties and injustices of the world, and having been ill-prepared for them, your heart breaks open.
I mean really discover them, and for yourself; not because someone else told you to see the elephant standing, gigantic and unrelenting in the middle of your room, but because you saw him, and now you know he’s there, and will never go away until you attack him, and with a vengeance.
Last night, and I am writing it down so that I will not forget — because I already know she will not — my oldest daughter, who attained the age of 12 only eleven days ago, became an American. Not in the legal sense. She was already that, born here, and — as a white child in a nation set up for people just like her — fully entitled to all the rights and privileges thereof, without much question or drama. But now she is American in the fullest and most horrible sense of that word, by which I mean she has been truly introduced to the workings of the system of which she is both a part, and, at the same time, merely an inheritor. A system that fails — with a near-unanimity almost incomprehensible to behold — to render justice to black peoples, the family of Trayvon Martin being only the latest battered by the machinations of American justice, but with all certainty not the last.
To watch her crumble, eyes swollen with tears too salty, too voluminous for her daddy to wipe away? Well now that is but the latest of my heartbreaks; to have to hold her, and tell her that everything will be OK, and to hear her respond, “No it won’t be!” Because see, even though she learned last night about injustice and even more than she knew before about the racial fault lines that divide her nation, she is still a bit too young to fully comprehend the notion of the marathon, as opposed to the sprint; to understand that this is a very long race, indeed that even 26.2 miles is but a crawl in the long distance struggle for justice. And that if she is as bothered by what she sees as it appears, well now she will have to put on some incredibly strong running shoes, because this, my dear, is the work.
This is why daddy does what he does. Now you know.
Although that much was enough to give this mother goosebumps and make me wonder about the conversation I’ll have with my own 14-year old daughter when she returns from three weeks away at summer camp on Saturday, the rest of the article is something everyone needs to read.
a fearless anti-lynching crusader, suffragist, women’s rights advocate, journalist, and speaker. She stands as one of our nation’s most uncompromising leaders and most ardent defenders of democracy.
And John Amato shared some insights from his latest Crooks & Liars piece, “Are Conservatives Really This Ignorant About Racism?”
Go read that piece too. But be forewarned, the answer is most undoubtedly ‘Yes.”