Attorney General Eric Holder Says He's Warned His Son About Dealing With the Police

By Susan Jones | July 17, 2013 | 5:43am EDT

Attorney General Eric Holder delivers the keynote address at the annual NAACP convention, Tuesday, July 16, 2013, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

( - Speaking at the NAACP’s 104th Annual Convention in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder invoked the "tragic and unnecessary death of Trayvon Martin" to make the point that while the country has changed for the better, it still has a long way to go in removing the "inequities that too many of our citizens face."

The nation's top cop indicated that police treatment of black men and boys is part of America's (alleged) racial problem. "And we must confront the underlying attitudes, mistaken beliefs, and unfortunate stereotypes that serve too often as the basis for police action and private judgments," Holder said.

Just as his own father warned him about the police, so Holder says he has felt it necessary to warn his son:

"Years ago," Holder said, some of the "same issues" raised by the Zimmerman trial "drove my father to sit down with me to have a conversation –- which is no doubt familiar to many of you –- about how, as a young black man, I should interact with the police, what to say, and how to conduct myself if I was ever stopped or confronted in a way I thought was unwarranted. I’m sure my father felt certain, at the time, that my parents’ generation would be the last that had to worry about such things for their children.

"Since those days, our country has indeed changed for the better. The fact that I stand before you as the 82nd Attorney General of the United States, serving in the Administration of our first African American President, proves that. Yet, for all the progress we’ve seen, recent events demonstrate that we still have much more work to do -– and much further to go.  

"The news of Trayvon Martin’s death last year, and the discussions that have taken place since then, reminded me of my father’s words so many years ago. And they brought me back to a number of experiences I had as a young man – when I was pulled over twice and my car searched on the New Jersey Turnpike when I’m sure I wasn’t speeding, or when I was stopped by a police officer while simply running to a catch a movie, at night in Georgetown, in Washington, D.C.  I was at the time of that last incident a federal prosecutor.

"Trayvon’s death last spring caused me to sit down to have a conversation with my own 15-year-old son, like my dad did with me. This was a father-son tradition I hoped would not need to be handed down. But as a father who loves his son and who is more knowing in the ways of the world, I had to do this to protect my boy. I am his father and it is my responsibility, not to burden him with the baggage of eras long gone, but to make him aware of the world he must still confront. This is a sad reality in a nation that is changing for the better in so many ways."

Holder said it's time for Americans to "better understand one another" and "commit ourselves to a respectful, responsible dialogue about issues of justice and equality – so we can meet division and confusion with understanding, with compassion, and ultimately with truth."

He repeated the administration's call to "combat gun violence," adding that the nation must also "confront the underlying attitudes, mistaken beliefs, and unfortunate stereotypes that serve too often as the basis for police action and private judgments."

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