On Holder And Blackness


After watching this segment on Maddow last night I immediately felt like a moron for tweeting this in response to Eric Holder’s resignation.

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.41.48 AM

My twitter bud @Chet_Kincaid justifiably called me out on it, and as the litany of far smarter analysis than my dumb cartoon shows, both Holder’s heart and his actions display someone who genuinely sought to reverse discrimination and end the systemic evil within our justice system.

But despite his efforts to directly address these problems to the best of his ability, he largely failed. Most of this blame can be directly set on the drooping shoulders of our unhinged and deranged Supreme Court, but (and this is not to imply that I was conscious of this argument BEFORE I made that ill-advised tweet) some of the failure can indeed be linked to Holder’s well-documented recalcitrance to holding our economic and political elites accountable for their transgressions. And that failure of consistency is a reflection of modern race relations in this country.

Like Scott Lemieux said in this piece, Holder’s policy decisions over at the DOJ largely reflected the values of his boss. Thus (along with Holder’s past as a corporate attorney) I think that it’s fair to say that the obvious blind spot that the Obama administration has had concerning economic justice and class-based discrimination permeated into how Holder designed his attacks against the racist power structures within this country. Non-controversial issues like voting rights, and evolving political positions on police brutality and the drug war presented Holder with avenues in which the DOJ could at least attempt to create good solid precedent for lasting positive change. However by failing to perhaps take on the more difficult actors behind our 2-tired justice system, Holder’s (and I honestly do not think this was intentional on his part) greatest legacy remains vulnerable to attacks from future administrations. In other words, time remains a flat circle.

If anything Holder, like Obama, personifies the problem that the 21st Century “Talented Tenth” have had once they reach the halls of what were (very recently) lily-white halls of political power. The death of class consciousness within certain segments of the black elite after the 1970’s has had a demonstrable and sad effect on the ideologies for these individuals (regardless of their political party). The expectation that every major liberal must have a “Sister Souljah” moment (where the candidate takes a steaming shit on poor/black people under the guise of addressing negative “cultural” traits , presumably in order to appease nervous white people), as well as the genuine surprise that white progressives like myself have that Barack Obama can’t say things in public like Alan Greyson for his own personal safety is itself the legacy of systemic racism and violence in this country. The fact that Eric Holder has to frame an embarrassing and illegal stop by police on his body in terms of “and I was a Federal Prosecutor at the time” shows how far we still need to go as a society.

So to sum up Eric Holder’s legacy, it is perhaps obvious at this point that in order for a person to be in a position of power AND simultaneously be an ideologically consistent progressive, he or she must be white.

Or be Barbra Lee.


About stefanbc

I am an attorney who works mainly in criminal defense, child welfare, and medical marijuana advocacy. I live in Long Beach with my wife and four pets. View all posts by stefanbc

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