Hang on a sec. As a young man, my husband was pulled over on the New Jersey Turnpike. The state trooper ordered him to take his suitcase out of his car and dump his belongings on the ground. The officer looked at everything, through the trunk, under the backseat, turning up a pebble the officer tentatively identified as a "marijuana seed." Then he noticed an unusual object in the mess. "What's that?" he demanded. "Avon aftershave," my future husband replied, unscrewing the cap of the Snoopy-shaped bottle.
That last part makes us laugh, but my husband remembers only anger and humiliation over the incident, and he is neither attorney general nor a black man. Call it equal-opportunity police thuggishness.
Holder's remarks continue. "I think about my time in Georgetown -- a nice neighborhood of Washington," he added, grossly underselling Washington's fabled section for WASP bluebloods -- "and I am running to a picture movie at about 8 o'clock at night. I am running with my cousin. Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells, 'Where you going? Hold it!' I say, 'Woah, I'm going to a movie.' Now my cousin started mouthing off. I'm like, 'This is not where we want to go. Keep quiet.' I'm angry and upset. We negotiate the whole thing and we walk to our movie. At the time that he stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. ... So I've confronted this myself."
Confronted what? Another bell goes off. I think about my time in a middle-class, "diverse" neighborhood in D.C. when my daughter's boyfriend, walking around the block to kill nothing more than time, was rousted by local police ("Where are you going? Hold it!"), who spread-eagled him against the squad car. This 20-something feller didn't dare "mouth off," not being attorney general, a federal prosecutor or a black man. Nor, for that matter, did my brother when he found himself facing the drawn guns of four L.A. County sheriff's deputies when he reached for his wallet to identify himself outside his mother-in-law's home in a majority-black L.A. neighborhood. (A black neighbor had called police after seeing my brother looking through windows as he attempted to locate his mother-in-law, who needed medical assistance.)
The point is not simply that Holder's experiences are not racially unique. Nor is it that he seems to be using them to feign "street cred" with young people less privileged than he. What should outrage every American is the spectacle of an attorney general serving not the principle and practice of the law, but rather using his considerable powers and influence to scapegoat a policeman who is presumed innocent, who hasn't been charged, let alone tried. Serving to perpetuate racial animosity, not justice, the U.S. attorney general is leading the rush to judgment.
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