This week's syndicated column
One thing an old Ivy League revolutionary can’t stand is people noticing that he represents the Establishment, that he embodies the System to a point where he can make it stop and make it go. He will go to great lengths to convince himself, if not others, this is not so.
Take Eric H. Holder Jr., Columbia College Class of 1973, Columbia Law School Class of 1976, now into his sixth year as U.S. attorney general of the Obama Imperium. The man really wants us to think he is not also “the man.”
Yes, he is “the attorney general of the United States,” as Holder told a group of St. Louis Community College students in Ferguson, Missouri, this week. “But I am also a black man.”
Holder took himself to Ferguson to spur the federal civil rights probe by more than 40 FBI agents into the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black, by 28-year-old police officer Darren Wilson, who is white. As the justice chief declared at local FBI headquarters: “We’re looking for possible violations of federal civil rights statutes.” Obviously, Holder left those scales of impartiality at home. Not that he would need them in Missouri, where Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon announced “a vigorous prosecution must now be pursued,” presumably of police officer Wilson.
Even the dark suits and American flags fail to obscure the 21st-century lynch mob at work. According to the snap judgment of federal and state authorities, Wilson shot the 6-foot-4, 292-pound man multiple times for “racist” reasons. The other story out there gathering reportorial mass is that Wilson fired as Brown charged him after having beaten Wilson to the point of fracturing his orbital socket and rendering the six-year veteran cop nearly unconscious – but, heavens, don’t let what’s quaintly known as the judicial process function unimpeded to ascertain the facts. Keep that media circus going because the nation’s top cop is ringmaster.
In his “closed-door meeting” – no media – at the community college, Holder wanted students to know he understood their “mistrust” of police. In fact, he wanted the whole country to know it because the Justice Department later released excerpts of his remarks. “I can remember being stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike on two occasions and accused of speeding,” the handout says. “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.”
Hang on a sec. As a young man, my husband was pulled over on the New Jersey Turnpike. The state trooper ordered him to take his suitcase out of his car and dump his belongings on the ground. The officer looked at everything, through the trunk, under the backseat, turning up a pebble the officer tentatively identified as a “marijuana seed.” Then he noticed an unusual object in the mess. “What’s that?” he demanded. “Avon aftershave,” my future husband replied, unscrewing the cap of the Snoopy-shaped bottle.
That last part makes us laugh, but my husband remembers only anger and humiliation over the incident, and he is neither attorney general nor a black man. Call it equal-opportunity police thuggishness.
Holder’s remarks continue. “I think about my time in Georgetown – a nice neighborhood of Washington,” he added, grossly underselling Washington’s fabled section for WASP bluebloods – “and I am running to a picture movie at about 8 o’clock at night. I am running with my cousin. Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells, ‘Where you going? Hold it!’ I say, ‘Woah, I’m going to a movie.’ Now my cousin started mouthing off. I’m like, ‘This is not where we want to go. Keep quiet.’ I’m angry and upset. We negotiate the whole thing and we walk to our movie. At the time that he stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. … So I’ve confronted this myself.”
Confronted what? Another bell goes off. I think about my time in a middle-class, “diverse” neighborhood in D.C. when my daughter’s boyfriend, walking around the block to kill nothing more than time, was rousted by local police (“Where are you going? Hold it!”), who spread-eagled him against the squad car. This 20-something feller didn’t dare “mouth off,” not being attorney general, a federal prosecutor or a black man. Nor, for that matter, did my brother when he found himself facing the drawn guns of four L.A. County sheriff’s deputies when he reached for his wallet to identify himself outside his mother-in-law’s home in a majority-black L.A. neighborhood. (A black neighbor had called police after seeing my brother looking through windows as he attempted to locate his mother-in-law, who needed medical assistance.)
The point is not simply that Holder’s experiences are not racially unique. Nor is it that he seems to be using them to feign “street cred” with young people less privileged than he. What should outrage every American is the spectacle of an attorney general serving not the principle and practice of the law, but rather using his considerable powers and influence to scapegoat a policeman who is presumed innocent, who hasn’t been charged, let alone tried. Serving to perpetuate racial animosity, not justice, the U.S. attorney general is leading the rush to judgment.