Speaking on the 60th anniversary of a landmark Supreme Court
ruling outlawing segregation in public schools, Holder said that
public outrage over recent instances of bigoted remarks by
well-known people did not mean the struggle for civil rights is
"These outbursts of bigotry, while deplorable, are not the true
markers of the struggle that still must be waged, or the work that
still needs to be done - because the greatest threats do not
announce themselves in screaming headlines. They are more subtle.
They cut deeper," he said in a prepared commencement address at
Morgan State University in Baltimore.
"... We ought not find contentment in the fact that these
high-profile expressions of outright bigotry seem atypical and were
met with such swift condemnation."
Holder, the nation's first African-American attorney general, didn't
mention a specific case but racist comments by the owner of the
NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling, that were made public
last month received substantial media attention and were widely
condemned by the league, players, public officials and on social
Since the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision,
Holder said laws that are overtly discriminatory no longer survive
the "strict scrutiny" legal standard.
He said the new battleground against discrimination should focus on
policies and laws that appear race-neutral but in practice impede
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"This is the work that truly matters - because policies that
disenfranchise specific groups are more pernicious than hateful
rants," Holder told the graduates at Morgan State, a historically
He cited disciplinary practices in schools that punish black males
at three times the rate of their white peers. He also said a report
last year by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that black men
receive criminal sentences that are nearly 20 percent longer than
white males convicted of similar crimes.
Holder said restrictions on voting that are justified as attempts to
curb voter fraud disproportionately disenfranchise blacks, Hispanics
and other minorities.
(Reporting by Eric Beech in Washington; Editing by Rosalind Russell)
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