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Holder: Americans Need ‘Training’ to Know They Have ‘Racial Baggage’ and ‘Bias’

‘These are the kind of things that all of us as Americans have to deal with’

All Americans have racial bias and only through training can this be addressed, said former Attorney General Eric Holder.

Holder, who notoriously called Americans “cowardly” for not discussing racial issues more forthrightly, said Wednesday that “all of us Americans” are carrying “biases” and “racial baggage.”

The comments came during an interview on MSNBC with Ari Melber. Holder was discussing disparities in the criminal justice system. Holder suggested that Paul Manafort would have received a stiffer sentence were he black.

“I do worry that judges are like all other Americans, carry with them implicit biases especially in the criminal justice sphere,” Holder said. 

Holder said “training” is the primary solution for addresses these “implicit biases.”

“You certainly have to have training,” Holder said. “You have to make people aware of the fact that they do carry these biases and make them understand that if you see an African-American defendant in front of you, that’s probably triggers things in your mind unconsciously, subconsciously and perhaps you’re gonna treat that person differently that somebody who shows up in a tie and that has a great lawyer they had paid for.”

“You would maybe cut that person a break that you wouldn’t otherwise give to a Hispanic or African-American defendant,” he continued. “People have to be just aware of that. And then that training has to continue. But these are the kind of things that all of us as Americans have to deal with. We all carry this racial baggage, I think the younger generation to a lesser degree than people in my generation, but it is still there.”

Holder also said President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan is inconsistent with “who we are” as a nation. America, he said, wasn’t great when women were denied the right to vote and when the LGBT community “was denied the rights to which its entitled,” a legal development that only occurred during the Obama Administration. [Video

Here’s a full transcript of the exchange: 

MELBER: “I’m thinking about the judges who assessed to Paul Manafort and as you know there are people who said, oh one of the judges are good and the other wasn’t. But both judges assessed him as this courtly grandfatherly figure. Judge Jackson said that he didn’t seem likely to re-offend. When Mr. Manafort had re-offended after his charges. And I thought would any judge — again, I don’t want to single a judge out. But would those judges be as likely to say that about a first time young black male offender?”

HOLDER: “I don’t want to talk about the judges — those judges in particular — but I do worry that judges are like all other Americans, carry with them implicit biases especially in the criminal justice sphere.”

MELBER: “How do you fix it?”

HOLDER: “Well, you certainly have to have training. You have to make people aware of the fact that they do carry these biases and make them understand that if you see an African-American defendant in front of you, that’s probably triggers things in your mind unconsciously, subconsciously and perhaps you’re gonna treat that person differently that somebody who shows up in a tie and that has a great lawyer they had paid for. You would maybe cut that person a break that you wouldn’t otherwise give to a Hispanic or African-American defendant. People have to be just aware of that. And then that training has to continue. But these are the kind of things that all of us as Americans have to deal with. We all carry this racial baggage, I think the younger generation to a lesser degree than people in my generation, but it is still there.”

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