Ben Jealous steps through the metal detector in the Hart Senate Office building on Capitol Hill. He removes his black baseball cap and jacket, hunching over as he affixes a gold NAACP pin to his lapel before entering a press conference in support of Attorney General nominee Eric Holder. It’s January, and the 35-year-old Jealous has been president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for a mere four months.
As he stands behind the podium, rubbing shoulders with senators and other civil-rights leaders, his gaze drifts to the space between his shoes. After a few moments, he realizes he’s on camera, and his chin jerks up as he rocks back on his heels a bit. When he takes the mic, he puts aside his prepared remarks and in a soft voice reminds the assembled crowd of reporters about the many civil-rights violations under the Bush administration. “With the Bill of Rights in tatters, with the Department of Justice in tatters, we need a man who can hold it together, and Holder is that man,” Jealous says confidently. He halts and squints for a moment. “We need a person who can hold it together. Holder is that person.”