Are we cowards when it comes to talking race?

Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, said this week that the U.S. is “a nation of cowards” on matters of race. He said most Americans avoid candid discussions of racial issues.

“If we’re going to ever make progress, we’re going to have to have the guts, we have to have the determination, to be honest with each other. It also means we have to be able to accept criticism where that is justified,” Holder said after the speech.

He provided no framework for how to have that conversation.

Neither did National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, which took the unusual step — for NPR — of putting two people with different views together to hash it out and prove to thousands of people on the way home in their cars, that if we’re not cowards, we’re at least clumsy as all getout.

Joe Klein, Time magazine’s political columnist, and Michael Eric Dyson, an author and professor at Georgetown University, got very little accomplished. Klein was upset that Holder didn’t acknowledge “the incredible progress that has been made over the last 40 or 50 years,” and Dyson sounding as though African Americans think white America wants to hear a “thank you.”