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Two models for Improved Race Relations

Most of you crackers out there reading this blog have served in the military. You've seen racism and stupidity, sure, but that's not all you've seen. You've seen that the system can work with guys like Colin Powell. You've worked with some squared away black soldiers, and you've trusted them with your lives. My black Platoon Sergeant at 2/75 didn't talk to us about race. He talked about what I needed to know to do my job better: How to stay in shape. How to chamber a round silently using the forward assist on my m16. How to pack my rucksack for a jump. My Platoon Sergeant was a stud. He knew it. Everyone knew it. Nobody made racist jokes behind his back. It would have seemed... stupid.

Why am I writing about this?

Because I've been sitting in a coffee shop here in Berkeley for the last hour overhearing a pair of earnest hippies, one young and one old -- and both whiter than Anderson Cooper's tennis shoes -- as they talked about racism, and the continuing problem it represents in America, and how to solve it and make America a better place. And then this black dude walks in and sits down next to them, and they give each other this look and then stop talking about race.


And then I saw this story:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney General Eric Holder described the United States Wednesday as a nation of cowards on matters of race, saying most Americans avoid discussing unresolved racial issues. In a speech to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month, Holder said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives. "Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," said Holder, nation's first black attorney general. Race issues continue to be a topic of political discussion, Holder said, but "we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race." He urged people of all races to use Black History Month as a chance for frank talk about racial matters. "It is an issue we have never been at ease with and, given our nation's history, this is in some ways understandable," Holder said. "If we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another and tolerant enough of each other to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us." He told Justice Department employees they have a special responsibility to advance racial understanding.

If I'm to understand our new Attorney General, those two white hippies should have been brave and continued their conversation in front of the black guy. And I should have been brave enough to chime in with my thoughts as well. I should have begun with a frank estimation of the continuing value of Black History Month, and whether or not the value of celebrating one interest group's history at the expense of all others is... divisive. Perhaps my new black coffee shop neighbor could have held forth on the continuing need for race-based affirmative action in an era when the President of the United States is... a black man... elected without benefit of a racial quota.

That would be the first model for improved race relations, the Eric Holder model. I disagree with this model. It doesn't work. And it seems to me that people who want to talk about race all the time -- like the white hippies -- while often well-intentioned, are the real dividers. Fortunately, there's a second model, one that works much better. I'm calling it the Morgan Freeman model. And it says that the way to truly put race behind us is to... ummm.... Well, stop talking about it so !#@$% much. Maybe even to forget about it entirely. And here is Morgan laying it out for us, in response to a question from 60 Minutes' Mike Wallace:

So go ahead and choose your model. I'll choose mine.