The Case Against Racial Dialogue

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From the NY Times:

"I think it's fair to say that if I had been advising my attorney general, we would have used different language," Mr. Obama said in a mild rebuke from America's first black president to its first black attorney general.

In an interview with The New York Times on Friday, the president said that despite Mr. Holder's choice of words, he had a point.

"We're oftentimes uncomfortable with talking about race until there's some sort of racial flare-up or conflict," he said, adding, "We could probably be more constructive in facing up to sort of the painful legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and discrimination."

I remain confused about what Holder meant, mostly because I thought the words that followed were vague. People should go back and look at Obama's speech on race. I think one of the things that makes it great is its specificity. He talks in detail about crime, about white resentment of Affirmative Action, about his grandmother's prejudice, and of course about Wright. I just wasn't sure what I was supposed to get out of Holder except, "Hey, we need to talk more about race." But I'm not sure we do. I think we need to talk more about specific policies that may disproportionately affect black people. But I don't know that we can--or should--make each other do the right thing.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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