U.S. House of Representatives
Press Release – 20 June 1997
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 20, 1997
STATEMENT OF CONGRESSWOMAN ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON AT PRESS CONFERENCE OF THE CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS ON THE PRESIDENT'S INITIATIVE ON RACE
In America today there are no riots. Without an immediate crisis, some don't want to talk about race. In America today, there is widespread racial and ethnic poverty and social distress. Without an agenda for immediate solutions, some don't want to talk about race. I can guarantee you this — if we don't talk about race, we won't do anything about race, racism, and race relations. So can we talk?
Avoiding the subject leads to avoiding the solutions. Avoiding the subject has led to a new cycle of racism and racial stereotyping. Comfortable in our own racial niches, we have been talking to ourselves about race. This has left room for the old stereotypes to blossom and even thrive in some corners. If Americans are left to get their idea of what a black man is from cable, God will never bless America.
I am tired of the American crisis approach to race. I object to getting race onto the American agenda only by forcing our way on with a crisis or an agenda of grievances. This country needs a normal conversation about race if we are to have any chance of developing the sustained effort it will take to conquer racism, racial isolation, and the racial and ethnic suspicion that could threaten the viability of the new multiracial America.
I am a veteran of the civil rights movement who has spent her entire life trying to get the attention of the President of the United States for one and one reason only — because nothing happens to relieve racial discrimination without Presidential leadership. From Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt to John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, we have always had to move the President before we could move the country. It's time to move Bill Clinton. To do that we'll have to talk and know what we're talking about first.