Attorney General Eric Holder has taken a lot of heat for his speech in which he called the United States a "nation of cowards" about race. Not only was his speech regarded by many as insulting it was sadly misinformed, as when he said this:
On Saturdays and Sundays America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some fifty years ago. This is truly sad. Given all that we as a nation went through during the civil rights struggle it is hard for me to accept that the result of those efforts was to create an America that is more prosperous, more positively race conscious and yet is voluntarily socially segregated.
Abigail Thernstrom points out that this statement just doesn't square with the facts. Writing at NRO she notes:
A little fact-checking is in order. Saturdays and Sundays looked quite different even less than 50 years ago. In 1964 only 18 percent of whites said they had black friends; the figure today is 87 percent. Raise the bar to "a fairly close personal friend" and the proportion jumps from a mere 9 percent in 1975 to 75 percent in 2005. The share of blacks with close white friends has soared from 21 percent to 82 percent over that same period.
We don't have much in the way of historical data on interracial dating because, not so long ago, the figure would have been too low for pollsters to bother tabulating. But we do know that in 1963 only 10 percent of whites approved of it. In 2006, however, a Washington Post/Kaiser poll found that 59 percent of black men and 41 percent of black women had dated someone who is white. And 41 percent of white women and 36 percent of white men had crossed the racial-dating divide. Today, the number of black-white marriages is up to almost half a million - still low, but a steep rise over the last 40 years. Presumably, these couples generally spend Saturdays and Sundays together.
Holder says that on the weekends blacks and whites lead separate lives. That's not so easy to do, given the racial composition of many American neighborhoods. Half a century ago, only 20 percent of whites reported having black neighbors; today the figure is above 60 percent. Blacks, on average, live in communities that are only half black. Do blacks and whites living in close proximity never chat about common concerns - the schools, the traffic, and the life of their kids in and out of school? Do the whites who voted for Barack Obama refuse to talk to the blacks who live on their street?
There's much else in her excellent essay to reward the reader. Those who nodded either in assent or dissent when they read Holder's remarks should read it.RLC