Attorney General Eric Holder gave a rare glimpse into his home this week, as Essence Magazine quizzed the AG about his humble roots and recent controversy surrounding Fast and Furious.
Holder, 61, told journalist Isabel Wilkerson that the fallout from Fast and Furious, the botched gun-walking investigation that ultimately landed him in contempt of Congress in June, has challenged him.
“I knew this was going to happen,” he told Essence. “I can’t say I’ve been unaffected by it, but I don’t think people should overestimate the impact it’s had on me given the nature of the criticism, which was unjustified.”
Holder continued, saying the contempt vote, which fell mostly along party lines, will not stop him from doing his work as attorney general. “In fact,” he said, “it’s going to intensify my efforts.”
And those efforts, he said, will hopefully speak for themselves.
“People will judge me not on the basis of this vote, but on the basis of the work I have done and will continue to do,” Holder said. “If anybody thinks this vote is going to somehow deter me or diminish my determination, they don’t understand who I am.”
That sense of self is evident every day, Holder said, who was joined by his wife Dr. Sharon Malone.
“The reality is, I’m the attorney general of the United States. She’s Dr. Sharon Malone. But at the end of the day, I’m still Ricky from 101st street, and she’s still Sharon from St. Anthony Street.”
Who he is, he said, is in large part, a product of his upbringing by his parents, who were immigrants from Barbados. Upon his induction as Deputy Attorney General under Janet Reno, his father, who worked in real estate in New York, at first balked at the invitation.
“He was worried people would make something of his lack of education and that he would be an embarrassment to me,” Holder said. “I told him, ‘All that I am as a man is a function of what you gave me.’ ”
That sense of history is important, Malone said. Malone is the sister of Vivian Malone Jones, who in 1963 walked into the University of Alabama against the orders of segregationist Gov. George C. Wallace. She would be the first black person to graduate from the university, and she would eventually go on to have a career at the Justice Department.
Malone, an OG/GYN in Washington D.C., grew up in Mobile, Ala. She said her parents had a “healthy sense of themselves.”
“That’s the part that amazes me, that you can grow up where everything negates your humanity and yet you’re able to keep intact and impart that to your children,” she told Essence. “The confidence to be who we are, it goes well beyond us. We’re the survivors of a 300-year legacy.”