Attorney General Eric Holder will soon step down from the post he's held for the past six years. Holder led the charge on a number of important cases, including an abandonment of the Defense of Marriage Act, and defenses of both civil and voting rights. Holder also oversaw the Justice Department's fervent and controversial pursuit of leakers of classified information. He was held in contempt of Congress for his part in an unsuccessful anti-arms-smuggling program called "Operation Fast and Furious."
Holder is the first African American to hold the US Attorney General's office. As such, he was a high-profile advocate for the rights of people of color, and related personal stories about how bad policing and racial inequality had personally affected him.
The Reverend Emmett G. Price III said Holder would go down as one of the great US Attorneys General.
"The fact that he was from the original cabinet of President Obama I think is significant. He's had some hiccups," Price said Monday on Boston Public Radio. "But his trends on civil rights have been extremely significant. [...] He brings a certain integrity to the office."
The Reverend Irene Monroe agreed, calling Holder "the people's Attorney General." Monroe tempered her enthusiasm by noting Holder's chumminess with the Rev. Al Sharpton. Sharpton has had close ties to the White House, but as The New York Times noted, Sharpton also has millions of dollars of unpaid income tax.
"Of course it's troubling, and I think it's troubling to any tax-paying American citizen," Monroe said on Boston Public Radio on Monday. Holder's Sharpton association is complicated because Sharpton is "Obama's go-to guy for the African American community."
Nonetheless, Price said Holder's legacy wouldn't be tarnished solely due to Sharpton.
"It's a hiccup. It's a hiccup," Price said.
'Black' versus 'African American'
Also on Boston Public Radio, the Reverends Emmett G. Price III and Irene Monroe talked about a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. The study found that white people attributed higher educational attainment, socioeconomic status, friendliness and intelligence to people referred to as "African American." When the same person was referred to as "black" those attributes fell precipitously.
"I think it's ludicrous. I'm not sure I want to judge what I call myself based on what white people feel about it," Price said.
'We come out of a culture where black is bad. 'Black-ball,' 'blackmail.' If I say 'black male' am I talking about Emmett, or am I talking about a fraudulent behavior, or have I collapsed the two?' --Rev. Irene Monroe
"We come out of a culture — long before the Black Nationalist movement — where black is [bad]," Monroe said. "Black-ball, blackmail. If I say 'black male' am I talking about Emmett, or am I talking about a fraudulent behavior, or have I collapsed the two?"
"I don't like the term 'African American,'" Price said. "Africa isn't a country, it's a continent. For many of us we don't know where our ancestors are from."
"I like the term African American in a way that it ties you to where your roots are. I don't like the term 'Hispanic,' but I do like when people say, 'I'm Puerto Rican American,' 'Dominican American.' [...] 'Black' is a political term."
"['African American'] is a cultural term that deals with the African diaspora," Price said. "If we're going to do the whole etymology, [...] those of us who have Caribbean blood, those of us who have indigenous blood" are left out. "We have to get off the white perception as being the baseline. I understand the point of the survey is to sense what is more appealing or palatable. And I think that whole idea is ludicrous."
"I always call it the 'conspiratorial trap of whiteness.' When you buy into this identity you lose your sense of history," Monroe said. "When did Italians become white? [...] We come from all parts of the world, whether we migrated here, or we were brought here on a slave boat."
City of Cleveland disavows responsibility for Tamir Rice's death
Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old shot dead by Cleveland police officers in November. Rice was holding a pellet gun, and Cleveland police officers used deadly force when responding to the scene.
The City of Cleveland today responded to a lawsuit brought by Rice's family. The city wrote in a court filing that Rice's injuries were "directly and proximately caused by their own acts, not this Defendant." The country sheriff has not yet finished an investigation into the matter.
"We really gotta change the culture of policing," Monroe said. "You have a culture here that it really doesn't matter if the cop is black or white. It's the kind of training and mindset of how we apprehend criminals. [...] Where is a safe space for black bodies to live in America?"
"At what point can kids be kids anymore? The young man was twelve years old."
"This reminds me of when I was reading The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson, Monroe said. "The doctor in this story was trying to find where in American could he drive, step out, and not have to deal with race."
>> "All Revved Up" is a Monday feature segment on Boston Public Radio. The Rev. Irene Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist who writes for Huffington Post and Bay Windows. The Rev. Emmett G. Price III is a professor of music at Northeastern University, and the author of The Black Church and Hip Hop Culture.