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February Fool

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Looks as if April Fool’s Day came early this year.

In a puzzling move, the nation’s first black attorney general decided Wednesday to tackle the pressing issue of … race relations. “We, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race,” Eric Holder announced. “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.”

Is that so?

Well, by all means, let’s open this “conversation.” So what did you think of the political cartoon in the New York Post recently? The drawing shows two cops who’ve just shot a chimp. “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill,” the officers say.

The art plays off the story of a chimp that recently went crazy in Connecticut (where many Post readers live). It attacked a woman and was shot dead by police. But some, of course, see the cartoon as a racist attack on Holder’s boss.

“Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Barack Obama (the first African American president) and has become synonymous with him it is not a reach to wonder are they inferring that a monkey wrote the last bill?” serial race-baiter Al Sharpton complained in a statement.

That comment is absurd. Everyone knows Obama didn’t actually write the “stimulus” bill; he outsourced that task to Congress. Besides, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief explained, the cartoon “broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist.”

So: there was a brief conversation on race. Was that what the country needed?

Sure, sociology professor Michael Eric Dyson told CNN. “We still lack a great deal of integrity and background and honesty about race and perhaps if we had more forthright conversations about race, we wouldn’t have to have these subterranean discourses that really are more malevolent.”

But, the anchor asked, what if a white person insisted the Post’s cartoon wasn’t racist? “They might be ignorant,” the Georgetown professor responded. “Openness doesn’t mean that you’re going to be right. Just because you’re willing to be honest doesn’t mean that we have to say that you’re right. It means that we’re willing to expose our ignorance and give that on the altar of conversation so that all of us can be better by it.”

In other words, in this context a “conversation” on race means listening to blacks telling whites what would be acceptable to say or even think, lest we be “ignorant.” Great.

Back to Holder, who’s supposed to be the country’s “top cop.” Instead he’s concerned with just whom Americans are hanging around with. “Saturdays and Sundays, America in the year 2009 does not in some ways differ significantly from the country that existed almost 50 years ago,” Holder claimed. But that’s incorrect.

The untold story of race relations in the United States is how much things have improved, not how bad things are. Let’s look at Holder’s window of 50 years. In 1959, (within living memory for many Americans) there were segregated restaurants in many states. Blacks had only been allowed to play major league baseball for 12 years and NBA basketball for nine. The idea of blacks and whites playing golf together on courses in the south seemed absurd. Today it’s routine.

In fact, today when the issue of race comes up, it’s often because someone is nakedly trying to use it to advance a political position. A few weeks back Roland Burris and some fellow Illinois Democrats held a news conference to explain why Burris deserved a seat in Congress. “There are no African-Americans in the U.S. Senate,” warned Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush ominously.

Indeed there weren’t -- simply because our supposedly racist country had just elected a black man out of the Senate and made him president.

Perhaps Holder was simply following in the satirical footsteps of The Onion. “African-American man Barack Obama, 47, was given the least-desirable job in the entire country Tuesday when he was elected president of the United States of America,” the mock newspaper wrote immediately after the election. “The job comes with such intense scrutiny and so certain a guarantee of failure that only one other person even bothered applying for it.”

So, April Fool. Unless he was kidding, Eric Holder is the real joke here.

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