Attorney General Eric Holder, one of the most powerful people in the United States, knows that when he is walking down the street, that power isn’t always obvious, but something else is: his race. In light of the Trayvon Martin killing, and George Zimmerman’s acquittal, Holder sat down with his son, African American and two years younger than Trayvon at the time of his death, and talked to him about how to interact with the police.
“Trayvon’s death last spring caused me to sit down with my own fifteen year-old son. This was a father-son tradition I hoped would not need to be handed down,” said Holder, referring to a similar talk his father had given him. “It is my responsibility, not to burden him with the baggage of eras long gone, but to make him aware of the world that he must still confront.”
We live in a strange time. The progress we have made since Holder was a teenager is incredible, but when people heard the story of George Zimmerman killing Trayvon Martin, there was little doubt that race was a factor. Racial profiling is a fact of life—something Holder has experienced first-hand:
“I was pulled over twice, and my car searched on the New Jersey turnpike, when I was sure I wasn’t speeding. Or when I was stopped by a police officer, when simply running to catch a movie at night in Georgetown, in Washington D.C. I was at the time of that last incident, a federal prosecutor.”
I know that racial profiling is not fun to talk about, but it’s a daily reality for many minorities, even as they account for more and more of the U.S. population. We can stop talking about it when African-American parents don’t have to talk to their kids as Eric Holder did, and tell them how to handle being messed with by people in positions of authority.