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Westport's Comey, Head Of FBI, Takes On Issue Of Race In Georgetown Speech

FBI Director James Comey speaks at Georgetown University.
FBI Director James Comey speaks at Georgetown University. Video Credit: fbi

WESTPORT, Conn. -- In a speech Tuesday at Georgetown University, FBI Director James B. Comey called on the nation to take part in an open conversation about the "disconnect" between police agencies and many minorities.

Comey, a Westport resident and Yonkers, N.Y., native, spoke in the wake of violence after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., the ongoing protests throughout the country, and the assassinations of two New York Police Department officers.

In his speech, Comey spoke of his Irish roots.

"The Irish had tough times, but little compares to the experience on our soil of black Americans. That experience should be part of every American’s consciousness, and law enforcement’s role in that experience — including in recent times — must be remembered. It is our cultural inheritance," he said.

Comey said he requires all new agents and analysts to study the "FBI’s interaction" with Martin Luther King Jr. and to visit his memorial as part of their training.

"And there is a reason I keep on my desk a copy of Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s approval of J. Edgar Hoover’s request to wiretap Dr. King," he said. "It is a single page. The entire application is five sentences long, it is without fact or substance, and is predicated on the naked assertion that there is 'communist influence in the racial situation.' The reason I do those things is to ensure that we remember our mistakes and that we learn from them."

He calls on Americans to talk about history and the "hard truth that lives on."

Comey also addressed the issue of unconscious racial biases.

"Many people in our white-majority culture have unconscious racial biases and react differently to a white face than a black face," he said. "In fact, we all, white and black, carry various biases around with us. I am reminded of the song from the Broadway hit, 'Avenue Q:' 'Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.' Part of it goes like this:

Look around and you will find No one’s really color blind. Maybe it’s a fact We all should face Everyone makes judgments Based on race.

"You should be grateful I did not try to sing that," he said to laughter from the Georgetown University audience.

A full text of his remarks can be read here at the FBI website.

It can be watched above or at YouTube .

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