We are a nation of “cowards.” At least that is what our Attorney General, Eric Holder, wants us to believe. You and I are a nation of lions walking around in search of some c-c-c-courage in hopes of having an honest conversation about race. He is right, but has no idea why.
Holder, America's first black Attorney General, sounded off last week on the issue of race. He said, “...in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.” Holder rightly cited that our workplaces, schools, and military are far more integrated than our leisure time. Monday to Friday life brings engagement and interaction, but weekends bring the old adage “like seeking like.”
Sadly, Holder offered no explanations for why this odd polarity of work life/leisure life is so. He merely attributes it to “cowardice.” In doing so, he lacks reflection and honest engagement himself. The reason for our reticence to have open, honest conversations about race with one another lies fairly near the surface. Fear – not of each other – but of the R word. Fear of being labeled a “racist.”
As a Methodist pastor for two decades, I was required to attend “sexual ethics training,” to sensitize us pastors to matters of sexual harassment, intimidation, and power. Portions of the “training” were helpful. Some portions were downright absurd and dangerous. For example, “sexual harassment” was usually defined solely as being in the eye of the receiver. There was no objective, agreed-upon definition for what constitutes sexual harassment. Rather, the trainer was content to suggest that if a woman accuses me, a man, of having crossed a boundary or stepped on her sexual sensitivity, then I have done so. Absurd and arbitrary. Such a definition places all the power on one side of the equation and gives the other person no place to stand or defend at all.