Eric Holder speaking at the NAACP convention

In a speech at the NAACP annual convention in Orlando, Fla., Attorney General Eric Holder argued the state’s controversial stand your ground laws “senselessly expand the concept of self-defense.” His speech was the first on the issue from a top-level Obama Administration official following the not guilty verdict in George Zimmerman’s murder trial.

Holder continued his attack of Florida’s expanded self-defense statute, which is on the books in  30 states and allows individuals to use deadly force whenever and wherever they feel threatened.

“These laws try to fix something that was never broken,” Holder told NAACP delegates, “The list of resulting tragedies is long and, unfortunately, has victimized too many who are innocent.”

In the wake of Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict, many have called on the Justice Department to file charges against the neighborhood watch volunteer. They assert Zimmerman violated Trayvon Martin’s civil rights and racially profiled the teen before confronting, and later killing, him.

The Attorney General said the slaying of Trayvon Martin forced him to sit down with his teenaged son—as Holder’s own father had once done—to talk about the burden of being a black man in America.

“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.”

He continued: ”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,” he said. “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.”

The Attorney General vowed to look into the Zimmerman case and the Department of Justice (DOJ) has opened an investigation to see whether or not they can bring charges against him.

Although Holder condemned the “stand your ground” statute, he admitted  the DOJ could do little to change the laws since they were enacted at the state level. Instead, Holder argued we need to dismantle systematic racism and the attitudes of prejudice that leads to situations like Martin’s death.

“It’s time to strengthen our collective resolve to combat gun violence but also time to combat violence involving or directed toward our children – so we can prevent future tragedies.” He added, “We must 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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  • Lynne

    I found myself clutching my pearls as I watched this on TV. I really didn’t think I’d hear a member of this administration say anything this profound.

    No, I’m certainly not bashing Obama, but I’m tired of feeling like issues regarding the black community have been swept under the rug. I know it’s all politics in the end, but still….

    My greatest fear regarding the Zimmerman trial is that the public — or, should I say, the members of the public who “matter” — will forget this story.

    Hearing Holder’s speech makes me think that maybe, just maybe, real and tangible change will occur.

    • Mademoiselle

      I wonder what’s really going on through Obama’s mind now that this verdict is out in consideration of his approach with the black community. He can come to our convocations and tell us about missing fathers failing us, about pursuing unrealistic dreams, about consumerism et al, but I wonder how the death of a young black boy (whose father was present in his life, who was on track for finishing high school and possibly going off to college just like his older brother, whose career aspirations were grounded), and the acquittal of his murderer sits on his conscience and perception of how far his message really goes. Speaking for myself, knowing how I intend to raise my future kids, I live in such fear of bringing sons in this world with the knowledge that they’ll be born as public enemy number one. It saddens and scares me to think about the fact that no amount of upbringing will take my kids out of the purview of a bigot’s malicious fantasies. I can move to the suburbs, I can force feed black pride to my children, and I can have “the talk” with them on a daily basis, but they will be born as targets. What is there to do?

    • Lynne


      I totally hear you. You’ve touched on so many great points.

      I think Obama is afflicted with the “scolding” disease at times. You see it with Cosby, church people determined to rescue the community, and so many other blacks who believe they’ve made it. Their message is that something is inherently wrong with the black community (but not them).

      Let me be clear: I know Obama is not the solution to everything, but do not underestimate the power of policy.

      Here’s an example: Blacks are thrown into the criminal justice system at higher rates than whites for engaging in the same activities (and I don’t necessarily mean committing actual crimes), and these same blacks reportedly have a much harder time re-entering society than their white counterparts.

      Therefore —

      Policies that criminalize blacks unnecessarily need to be done away with.

      The Zimmerman verdict may be a wake up call for the Obama administration.

  • Chika

    Wow. I know politicians will say anything to please a section of society, but Eric Holder really went out on a limb to say this so bluntly and totally unsugarcoated. There may still be hope guys.

    • Just FYI,

      Eric Holder is not a politician. He is the Attorney General, which is not an elective office.


  • holder may talk but he will DO nothing…….

    • PGS

      Actually, under Holder’s leadership, the DOJ has been more active than under many other administrations.

      Here’s what Holder said at Clark Atlanta:

      “In fact – under this Administration – we have taken significant, and in many cases historic, steps to prevent civil rights violations and make good on the promise of equal justice under law. Over the last four years, we’ve restored the Civil Rights Division’s ability to combat discrimination, intimidation, and bias-motivated violence. We’ve filed more criminal civil rights cases than ever before – including record numbers of police misconduct and human trafficking cases. And we’re utilizing a range of tools and authorities to move aggressively – and fairly – in investigating and prosecuting hate crimes.

      Between 2009 and 2012, the Department convicted 140 defendants on federal hate crimes charges – an increase of more than 70 percent over the previous four years. Thanks to the landmark Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act – which President Obama signed into law in 2009 – we’ve strengthened our ability to achieve justice on behalf of those who are victimized simply because of who they are – including Americans targeted because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. And, under a variety of important laws, we’ve enhanced our focus on preventing and addressing discrimination in all its forms – and promoting the highest standards of integrity and professionalism across our nation’s law enforcement community.”

      I think it’s easy for us to say, “He’s not going to do nothing…” because we don’t know what has been going on. You don’t hear about ongoing cases on the news. So unless you pay attention to the DOJ, it’s easy to think they’re not doing “anything” when actually, they’re working within their powers (which….are limited) to do a lot.

    • Lynne

      “I think it’s easy for us to say, “He’s not going to do nothing…” because we don’t know what has been going on. You don’t hear about ongoing cases on the news. So unless you pay attention to the DOJ, it’s easy to think they’re not doing “anything” when actually, they’re working within their powers (which….are limited) to do a lot.”

      That’s a great point. I don’t think too many people realize the amount of information out there. If you rely on cable news for info, you are getting only a fraction of what is truly going on.

      This reminds me of those people who claim blacks are not outraged by black-on-black violence. It seems to me these people have no idea they aren’t getting the full story because they have restricted their own sources of information.

    • under holders watch black people have their voting rights restricted across the land.

      we have a black POTUS and a black AG and the situation for black people on the street has grown worse.

      the obama administration has been a sad scram.

    • WhatIThink

      Holder himself told you point blank that basically Zimmerman was justified because “he needs to hold a conversation with his son” on how to act and walk down the street around white folks. Excuse me? That in itself acknowledges that the rights for blacks are different from those of whites and that there is a “line” we should not cross.

      So much for black folks in high office standing up to the lynch mob…..

      Pure out and out bowing and scraping.

      And then he talks about the stand your ground law which has absolutely nothing to do with Trayvon Martin.

  • justmytake

    The Obama administration doesn’t need anything from the black community, he’s already been re-elected. this speech is just fodder to dupe the black community to believe the JD might get involved. This administration is simply laying the ground work for 2016,hence the immigration bill. Additionally, the democrats doesn’t have to worry about losing the black vote,ever. The black community won’t even leverage our vote by entertaining republican party. And I’m not saying vote republican but at least make both parties earn our vote. So,unfortunately I don’t believe anything will come of this. And it’s sad

  • Justanotheropinion

    “If every sign that I see is complete, then I’m a fool in your game. And all you want to do is tell me your lies. Won’t show the other side, you’re just wasting my time. All you do to me is talk talk”.

    Lyrics from Talk Talk in 1982, but seems very fitting.

    Stand Your Ground was in place in 13 states (?) BEFORE Trayvon Martin was killed and there was was no outrage or talk of discontent ….Less talk – more action.

    Rhetoric is the white mans game….Some of us ain’t buying it.