Can Americans Speak Frankly about Race?
(Photo by Robin Holland)
This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with scholar John McWhorter about the state of racial discourse in America and his thoughts on Attorney General Eric Holder’s controversial speech last week calling the U.S. a “nation of cowards” with regard to racial matters.
"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race."
McWhorter argued that the "conversation about race" called for by Holder excludes the frank opinions of many white people:
"Over about the last 20 years, saying that we need to have a ‘conversation about race’ is coded... Having the conversation about race – what is generally meant by most people who are saying that – means black people have something to teach white people if white people would just sit and listen. It is not a conversation in the strict sense, it’s not an exchange. In an exchange there would also be room for white people to say ‘Here’s why we think you need to get over racism, here’s why we’re not as racist as you might think, here’s why we’re offended by this or we’re weary of this.’ What most people mean by the conversation would have much, much less room for that than for the teaching that black people are supposed to do."
What do you think?