Many of us, of course, were predictably offended that the Attorney General of the United States would refer to this great nation in such a way.
On the other hand, one has to admit that most Americans are, in fact, afraid to discuss race. This fear, however, is not irrational. In fact, avoidance of this topic is generally a prudent decision.
Part of the problem was the messenger. I can't help but believe that if Bill Cosby -- who has spent a lifetime earning credibility on this issue -- had uttered those words, they would have been received differently. Additionally, though, of the problem is that Holder didn't explain exactly why we are afraid to discuss race -- and the answer, of course, is because we've been conditioned to avoid the topic for more than forty years now.
A New York Times review of William Julius Wilson's new book, "More Than Just Race," sheds some light on the subject:
Wilson criticizes the liberals and black power activists who attacked as racist Daniel Patrick Moynihan's prescient report "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action" (1965). According to Wilson, the vitriolic condemnation of the Moynihan Report effectively closed off a serious academic focus on the culture of poverty for decades, robbing policy makers of a complete and nuanced account of the causes of ghetto poverty.
If, in fact, we are a "nation of cowards" on race, it is precisely because liberals have demonized anyone who dared have an honest discussion on the topic. Even liberal Daniel Patrick Monhihan -- who was working for Lyndon Johnson at the time -- was not immune to the devastating attacks.
If a liberal working for LBJ could be attacked as "racist" for engaging in an honest discussion of the topic, why on earth would the rest of us want to tackle it?