Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What Did He Mean By "My People"?

What would be the reaction in politics and the media if white people referred to other white people as "my people"?

Suppose that John Ashcroft or Ed Meese or Janet Reno had referred to white people as "my people". Would the New York Times, Andrew Sullivan, the Congressional Black Caucus and Ben Jealous of the NAACP call for their job? Probably not Reno - she served as attorney general under the first black U.S. president - but that's another topic for another time....

Politico (with a nod to Debra Burlingame on Facebook) reports that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder became frustrated during congressional testimony because members of the U.S. Congress kept questioning his decision and motivation regarding the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation incident during the 2008 election at a Philadelphia polling place. In his remarks, he drew a distinction between those alleged victims of the Black Panthers, and those who struggled to get voting rights for African-Americans in 60's America, a group to whom he referred as "my people".

Mr. Holder said there is no equivalency between voter intimidation in 2008 America and that stuff in the 60's. Mr. Holder stated that any comparison was "inappropriate" and "...a great disservice to those who put their lives on the line for my people" (emphasis added). The writer informs the readers at the end of the fourth paragraph of the Politico piece that United States Attorney General Holder is black, perhaps implying that by "my people", Holder meant people like himself.

In fairness to Mr. Holder, one could assume that he's actually referring to the people, many of whom were eastern liberals much like himself, except for the ones who weren't, who put "their lives on the line" as his people. However, the writer seems to believe that Holder's decision to not prosecute the New Black Panthers for voter intimidation is somehow colored by Holder's race. After all, it was Mr. Holder who bravely pointed out that Americans were afraid to have a discussion about race, although he didn't say Americans, whether his "people", or perhaps some other eastern liberal Americans.

The members of congress seemed confused by this. One member even accused Mr. Holder of a holding a double standard on voting rights for those "...other than African-Americans....". First a member of congress and and now this writer for Politico. No wonder Mr. Holder was at pains to explain that "This Department of Justice does not enforce the law on the basis of race".

Whew boy, I'm glad he cleared that up! For a minute there it seemed that United States Attorney General Eric Holder was of the same mind as the Reverends Jackson and Sharpton.

Seems to me that Holder doesn't really have excuse for refusing to at least investigate, if not prosecute, the New Black Panthers. Using a congressional hearing to dismiss similarities between thuggery in 2008 America and the historic desire for social and political equity makes a mockery of that voting rights struggle in the 60's he claims to revere.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, especially when government officials make extralegal and racially biased decisions under the color of law.

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