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WYPR's Senior News Analyst opines on recent Maryland news.

Honest Talk About Race Won't Be Easy

Attorney General Eric Holder says this country needs an honest discussion about race. A conversation on race would be a good thing for our country. But it won’t be easy. Even in the anger and sadness post-Trayvon Martin people will be wary.

Or maybe now it will be easier. We are having something like a conversation precisely because of Trayvon Martin – more specifically because of George Zimmerman, who shot him to death.

Who’s talking or writing about anything else?

The conversation goes on because Trayvon is dead and, probably, because of the issues Eric Holder wants to get at: profiling. He’s dead because he was a young black man wearing a hoody. He’s dead because of Florida’s stand your ground law.

Trayvon Martin may be dead because we didn’t have the conversation earlier. If there were discussions in small groups of well-meaning people around the country some of the issues might have been raised in ways people actually thought about them.

If your church or your bowling league or golf club went over the issues in some non-threatening way – possible, I think – we might find ways to communicate some truths, some dos and don’ts. Things like this: If you’re on community patrol and your local police say stay in your car, please stay in your car.

If you don’t want to get hurt or to hurt someone else, don’t carry a gun. Some might say (have said) do carry a gun so you’re ready in the event of a threatening situation. But let police deal with situations. They’re trained for them. 

Various agencies in Maryland have made real efforts to start the kind of conversation Eric Holder wants. Some have met nothing but opposition. Some have managed sustained efforts.

Our successes in this area are an obstacle. We’re better on race than we were.  But we’re not there yet. If we were talking, we might get a clear idea of what “there” looks like – and how to get started.

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