Holder urges Americans to be 'impatient' with racial injustice in Mpls. speech

Former AG spoke at annual MLK Day breakfast downtown

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Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. holiday breakfast Monday at the Armory in Minneapolis. The event featured several speakers, musical and dance performances and a volunteering event.
Elizabeth Flores | Star Tribune

It was a day of celebrations in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. across the country Monday.

More than 2,000 people honored King’s legacy at an annual breakfast at the Minneapolis Armory. General Mills and the United Negro College Fund have sponsored the event every year since 1991.

Keynote speaker Eric Holder noted that there have been important civil rights achievements, but he said America has yet to fully live up to its ideals. Holder is the first African American to serve as U.S. attorney general.

He urged the audience to be "impatient" with racial injustices that remain persistent today.

"As easy as it is, we must not look back toward a past that was comforting to too few and unjust to too many,” said Holder. “That is not how you make America great."

Holder pointed to voter suppression, unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud and the purging of eligible citizens from voter rolls.

"More than half a century after Dr. King helped pass the landmark voting rights act of 1965, for too many Americans the right to vote, and the assurance that one's vote is counted fairly, remains under siege,” said Holder. “To me, this is the chief civil rights issue of our time."

He said in order to move forward, the country must not give in to irrational fear and what he called manufactured division.

For Laverne McCartney Knighton, the divisions that Holder described are visceral. She is a committee member for the breakfast and the area development director for the United Negro College Fund.

“I think I'm one of those people that feels that division and every day I challenge myself to see people, to see who we are, to see through the external difference because at the end of the day we’re more alike than we are different,” she said.