Attorney General Eric Holder says he is proud to be called an “activist,” adding also that he views it as his job as the nation’s top law enforcement official to “change things.”
“If you want to call me an activist attorney general, I will proudly accept that label,” he said in an interview published in The Hill. “Any attorney general who is not an activist is not doing his or her job. The responsibility of the attorney general is to change things [and] bring us closer to the ideals expressed in our founding documents.”
Holder’s remarks were made in reference to critics who questions the Justice Department’s ongoing review of “policies [with] disproportionate impact on communities of color.”
“There are still [racial] issues we as a society are working our way through,” Holder said. “And the lack of desire to do that, I think, undermines the ability that I think is inherent in the American people to make progress. But it also does not prepare us for demographic changes, the likes of which this country has never seen.”
He continued, adding: “The justice system is part of the larger society and to the extent there are racial issues we are still grappling with, it is not a shock that you are going to see them in the justice system. … [There is] a whole range of ways the justice system, if it is run properly, can make this country the country it wants to be.”
And as for critics who say the Justice Department is now run by activists: “[An] activist civil rights division and this is an activist attorney general — I’d say I agree with you 1,000 percent and [I am] proud of it.”
Criticism of Holder as an activist began in earnest after he famously stated in 2009 that the U.S. is a “nation of cowards” when it comes to discussing matters of race.
"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," Holder declared.
Later, in a 2014 address, Holder reiterated this claim, not backing away from his earlier characterization of the issue.
Imbalanced outcomes along racial line “are not only shameful and unacceptable — they impede our ability to see that justice is done,” Holder said. “And they perpetuate cycles of poverty, crime and incarceration that trap individuals, destroy communities and decimate minority neighborhoods.”