The Case Against Racial Dialogue

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.

Presented by

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.

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis. The only problem? He has to prove it works.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Entertainment

From This Author

Just In