Why America is a “Nation of Cowards” When it Comes to Race

Reggie Fullwood
Reggie Fullwood
Reggie Fullwood

by Reggie Fullwood

In a Black History speech in 2009 at a Department of Justice program, the nation’s first black attorney general said that America is “a nation of cowards.”

Sure it may sound bad or awkward on the surface, but you have to take the entire speech into context. Holder was basically saying that most Americans don’t want to have an open dialogue about race and racial differences.

Today in the United States white supremacists feel more emboldened than ever.  The marches in Charlottesville are a prime example of their growth and lack of discretion about who they are and what they want. And of course, we have a President that bolsters their efforts with his ridiculous comments in defense of racism in bigotry.

Many Americans would rather not talk about race at all and prefer to insist that the past is the past and racial issues no longer exist. I know – funny right?

Some would even go as far to say that we should ignore color all together. I have said time and time again that the concept being “color blind” about race is fruitless. Why ignore color when we can simply except, respect and embrace our cultural differences?

That’s the point that Holder was making. He said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives.

“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,” Holder said.

He continued by saying that race does continue to be a topic in political discussions but us average everyday Americans don’t talk with each other enough about racial differences and issues.

Let’s take a step back even further.  One of our key founding fathers was committed to protecting minorities and having dialogue about race.  The Donald could take a lesson from Thomas Jefferson.

“All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable,” said President Jefferson in 1801 during his first Inaugural Speech.  He added, “That the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”

Protecting the rights of the minority and ensuring equality have always been at the forefront of the great democracy called the United States of America. But and there’s always a “but” right?  For minorities in this country, equality and racism have always been issues that are dealt with in increments and often times indirectly.

The hate marches in Charlottesville are a reminder that although we have made great strides to destroy racism and bigotry America still has a long way to go.

It’s hard to believe that in the year 2017 we are still having some of the same conversations about race that we had in 1957.  We are still talking about an unfair justice system that treats minorities much more harshly than whites.  We are still talking about police brutality and “driving while black.” We are still talking about the need to continue affirmative action programs in higher education because in almost every college that moved away from those very programs – minority enrollment dropped.

So if you are a person that harbors racial issues or is uncomfortable discussing racial differences you quite honestly are a part of the problem. And what I mean is this – African Americans don’t need whites to simply agree with racism exist. Blacks want to work with all races to end racism, and as Dr. King once said the only way to destroy hate is with love.

A shout out to all of my Game of Thrones fans; racism is like a great 1,000 foot tall wall that stretches from coast to coast blocking this country from reaching it’s true potential.  Instead of trying to find a way to go around this wall – let’s simply tear it down by addressing issues head on.

A study by the Kaiser Foundation several years back confirmed that one of the major problems with race relations in America is that we just don’t understand each other.

In fact, this study showed what many African Americans already know – that a large number of whites have mistaken ideas about how blacks are faring in American society.

Again, open dialogue can change those perceptions. “The struggle is much more difficult now because racism is more entrenched and complicated,” said Activist Angela Davis.

Holder also said, “If we’re going to ever make progress, we’re going to have to have the guts, we have to have the determination, to be honest with each other. It also means we have to be able to accept criticism where that is justified.”

This means that black folks will also need to be honest with ourselves as we look at the man in the mirror. As a race a people we have to figure out a way to end self hate, black on black crime, get more black males in college, increase home ownership and investment, etc. African Americans have to do our part as well.

This is the land of opportunity, but being a proud American doesn’t mean that we can’t address the ills of our nation.

James Baldwin may have said it best when he said, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Signing off from Duval County, FL.,

Reggie Fullwood

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