Some of you already know how much I admire Abigail Thernstrom's work...and the work she has done with her husband Steve, both old friends of mine from the New Marxist Study Group (or something like that) at Harvard in the early sixties. She has now written a characteristically withering piece about Eric Holder's all-too famous speech to his associates at the Justice Department. As I indicated earlier, I was surprised by the callowness of his talk. I expect more analysis from him and less sloppy rhetoric from him.
But, as usual, Abby has the facts, and the facts are indisputable.
Are race relations in America perfect? No, not by a long shot. Is there complete racial equality in the country? Also not by a long shot. There are vast differences in educational performance among racial and ethnic groups, and not all of this is a result of racial prejudice. It may, in fact, be a result of us not talking truth to each other. I am not sure whether this is the kind of conversation that Holder wants. Maybe it is.
Still, let me point to another differential between and among the races. It is the matter of black-on-black violence. I live in Cambridge, and so I am fated every morning to read the Boston Globe, a newspaper which is as yet not as thin as the Harvard Crimson but which uses a lot of its space to report on and lament the relentless epidemic of killings among young African Americans. Some of these murders are related to drugs. Some of them just happen. Purposeless and random. Some tireless clergyman organizes a candle-lit church service or a march to the spot where the blood was shed. These are routine. They have been routine ever since I came to grad school in 1959.