The same supporters of President Obama who were frustrated with the president's failure to say something meaningful about race in Ferguson will likely find solace in Attorney General Eric Holder's comments Wednesday. While meeting with Ferguson residents at a community college, Holder discussed his personal experiences with the police. "I understand that mistrust," Holder said. "I am the Attorney General of the United States. But I am also a black man."
Leading up to Holder's visit, commenters noted that he'd have to juggle his reputation for being frank on race with the delicate nature of an ongoing investigation. During his comments, Holder focused on the work the Civil Rights Division and the need for action, not just dialogue, in Ferguson. On the subject of the relationship between communities and law enforcement, he recounted his own experiences with racial profiling:
We have seen a great deal of progress over the years. But we also see problems and these problems stem from mistrust and mutual suspicion ... I can remember being stopped on the New Jersey turnpike on two occasions and accused of speeding. Pulled over.... 'Let me search your car'... Go through the trunk of my car, look under the seats and all this kind of stuff. I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me.
Compare that to the president's less personal commentary from Monday:
In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear. And through initiatives like My Brother’s Keeper, I’m personally committed to changing both perception and reality.
This is what people expected from Holder. Author and Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson explained it to The New York Times this way: Obama's speech on Monday was a “stunning epic failure” but Holder is “an up and down race man who understands the moral consequences of the law on the lives of black people.” A June Politico profile summed it up more succinctly: "Holder has been willing to say the things Obama couldn’t or wouldn’t say about race."