August 21 2014

Holder's Challenge

Charlotte Hays

Ferguson is Attorney General Eric Holder’s moment: is he up to it? 

Holder has said that the U.S. is a “nation of cowards” when it comes to race.

Let us hope that our Attorney General, the United States' man on the ground in Ferguson, Mo., the scene of riots in the wake of the shooting of black teenager Michael Brown, is a man of courage.

We’ll learn if Holder can deliver impartial justice and bring a measure of calm to the situation as the facts, now shrouded in rumor, emerge.

Breitbart has a report on Mr. Holder in Ferguson that doesn’t encourage:

When U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to investigate the controversial shooting incident between a city policeman and a black teen, he said he was both the highest law officer in the nation “and a black man.” He further claimed he was himself the victim of racial harassment by law enforcement.

In remarks made at a meeting of members of the Ferguson community, Holder stirred some racial strife of his own claiming that, even as he is Attorney General, he was once also a victim. "I can remember being stopped on the New Jersey turnpike on two occasions and accused of speeding. Pulled over... 'Let me search your car'... Go through the trunk of my car, look under the seats and all this kind of stuff. I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me," he said.

Holder also fanned the flames of racial strife across the nation hinting that what happened to teenager Michael Brown was common all across the nation.

"The eyes of the nation and the world are watching Ferguson right now,'' Holder claimed. "The world is watching because the issues raised by the shooting of Michael Brown predate this incident. This is something that has a history to it, and the history simmers beneath the surface in more communities than just Ferguson."

But law enforcement isn’t charged with investigating the “history” that “simmers beneath the surface.” The question before law enforcement is whether Darren Wilson, the policeman who tragically shot Michael Brown, triggering race riots, is guilty of murder or whether there were circumstances that, ever how regrettable, justified the shooting. This is what must be investigated.

As for the “history that shimmers beneath the surface,” the United States has indeed had an ugly racial history. But the idea that nothing has changed since the 1860s and that in contemporary America police officers live to execute young black men is a slur on a country that has done much to rectify past injustices.

No matter what we learn about the Ferguson shooting, Eric Holder has an unparalleled opportunity to serve the country. If it is found after a thorough investigation that Wilson made a shoot that was justified, Holder, as the first black AG, has a chance to stand up for the American system of justice, even if the results are not always the ones wanted. Holder will have a lot to do with whether the investigation is fair, and if it is fair and Wilson is not found guilty, Holder will have an opportunity to bring calm to a dangerous situation. 

If Wilson is tried and found guilty, Holder will have a chance of a different kind. He can urge black Americans to be proud of a justice system that is designed to work impartially for everybody, regardness of race. It is possibly not encouraging that already, before the Grand Jury has completed its investigation, Holder is looking into the possibility of a civil rights violation that would allow a trial of Wilson, no matter what the Grand Jury decides.

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