The reality of Blacks living daily fearful of an overwhelmingly white police force has not gone away. Fear of black people by white police has not gone away. Calling such things "unrest," would mean all we need in the Attorney General's office is someone who is calm. Therefore, "Guilty of being black while walking," and "Guilty of being black by driving," are issues for the next Attorney General.
"Guilty of being black while being president or attorney general" has become extraordinarily clear in what some said would be a post-racial society. The fear embedded in systemic racism is more insidious, and trust so much more elusive.
A black man is stopped for appearing to not be wearing a seat belt. The video camera shows when told by the officer to get out of his car, the driver does. When told, yet with a calm voice, to produce his driver's license, the man proceeds to do so by reaching back into his car to obtain it. Then we hear and see the police officer's tone change into a fearful rage: "Get down on the ground," while simultaneously shooting the driver." "Why did you shoot me?" the man asks. "You told me to get my driver's license." Fear!
Eric Holder has told us that he had to have "the talk" with his own son that his parents had with him, the talk that neither he nor they thought he would have to have in this generation. It's about how a black son, as he becomes a man, must be prepared to act when confronted by the police in order to live. Fear. The gulf of trust.
The question is not how many people liked or disliked Eric Holder in his office, nor even a matter of his record. The question is how we can replace Eric Holder with Eric Holder, with a person who will carry on the issues that are essential to this nation if we are ever to move beyond fear of the "other" and live in trust without needing to shoot each other.
President Obama, addressing the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual awards dinner Saturday night said people, "who are victimized by crime and need strong policing [are] reluctant to go to the police because they may not trust them," and that the "widespread mistrust of law enforcement" that exists in too many communities "is having a corrosive effect on the nation, particularly on its children." Obama called this a "gulf of mistrust."
One could argue if there ever has been trust between blacks and whites in the United States, when our history began as one group oppressing the other. We must ask now if we have trust between people of different ethnicities, religions, or national origins. We fear immigrants at our borders, even (especially?) children. Inter-faith groups have been meeting since 9/11 to try to learn about and understand one another; however images of be-headings incite fear that reverse the polls in favor of military action in the Middle East.
Eric Holder will leave office with many things undone, but he made civil rights a top priority. When people in this nation cannot even have enough trust to allow each other to have their constitutional right to vote, fear has won and democracy has lost. Voter suppression will continue and increase without another Eric Holder.
Fear. When some people are so afraid of people of different sexual orientation that they believe they need laws to defend their own heterosexual marriage, trust goes underground. During Holder's time in office the Justice Department decided to no longer defend components of DOMA because it "contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships..."
This nation is so full of fear of people of color and those who are poor that they incarcerate them, more than any other country in the world. Attorney General Eric Holder pushed for sentencing reform. He said, "This over-reliance on incarceration is not just financially unsustainable, it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate."
Over the weekend there was more racial "unrest" in Ferguson. A police officer was shot, but the mayor stated it was unrelated to the protests. Eric Holder urged officers not to cover their name plates with black tape. Across TV screens the nation is fixated on a missing young college woman and an armed man hiding out from law enforcement in NE Pennsylvania. We need the police. We need community policing. We need trust. What would this country look like if we had not more guns, nor more fear of each other, but more trust? Trust, when broken, takes time and will and work to (re)-establish. We need you Eric Holder, and another like you. We need thousands of leaders and citizens like you.