Monday, February 23, 2009

Race dialogue--"you can't go over it, you can't go under it. You've got to go through it."

Meet the Press doesn't have the small segment I want...and I can't figure out how to edit the video...so if you'll let the video load, you can go to 45:05 (near the end) to listen to Michele Norris's comments about Eric Holder's comments I posted yesterday.

I have edited the transcript below the video so you can read her words.

David Gregory falls into the same trap that I mentioned yesterday. By saying that the Attorney General shouldn't speak so openly about race, we reinforce his comments about us being cowards. I appreciated Ms. Norris's points.




MR. GREGORY: In our remaining moments, I want to spend a couple minutes talking about Eric Holder, the attorney general, first African-American attorney general. And he gave a speech about the national dialogue about race in this country, or lack of thereof, and he used some charged language. And this is what he said.

(Videotape of Eric Holder speaking on Wednesday)
MR. ERIC HOLDER: Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as a ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.
(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: And, Al, his point is that the dialogue about race in this country is too stilted and it doesn't happen, and that people are still afraid to have it. Was that the right way to invite people to have that conversation more freely?

MR. HUNT: I think that he's absolutely right on the history. I think he makes a very valid point. I think the attorney general should not be making that point. I think it weakens him in some, some of the tough actions he's going to have to take to deal with race. So I think it was a poor choice of words, even though it's hard to quarrel with his history.

MS. NORRIS: You know, that, that almost--what you just said, though, seems to confirm the argument that he's making, that if he talks openly about race that he can't deal with race. He seems to be saying that we need to talk openly about race. I think if he had said Americans are uncomfortable talking about race...that Americans are skittish of talking about race, we probably wouldn't be talking about it at this table right now.

MR. GREGORY: So, Michele, what happens now? Is, is President Obama, the first African-American president, is he or should he be a catalyst for this conversation? Or rather, does this conversation, in a more open way, have to happen around our dinner tables and in other more casual settings amongst all of us?

MS. NORRIS: Well, you know, I was speaking to--we did a segment on the radio about this this week, and one of the things that was said that I thought was so striking is when someone calls for a conversation like this, people like us sit at tables like this and we have this conversation. But the places where the conversation really needs to happen is where that conversation generally doesn't happen, because it's really difficult to talk about this. It's fraught with landmines. People are afraid of saying the wrong thing or the right thing, so sometimes they don't say anything. It's fraught with anger and resentment and guilt and the need for apologies...

MS. NORRIS: Can I say one thing, though? I think that what, what you see here is perhaps a slightly different view of the need for dialogue. And I hear two very different conversations. And in some ways they're coming from two different camps, from people of color and from Caucasian Americans. And when you talk about the need for, or the move toward a more post-racial society, you don't hear that so much from people of color. And it's almost like that, that ship is heading toward an iceberg, because from people of color what you're hearing more often is let's now have a more open dialogue about race.

MR. GREGORY: Let's not shut the dialogue off because...

MS. NORRIS: ...you can't go over it, you can't go under it. You've got to go through it.
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