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December 17, 2001
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National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice -- concert pianist, figure skater, Stanford University Provost, speaker of 4 languages -- should be the poster child for Black achievement in the 21st Century. So why is she largely ignored, if not outright scorned, by the Black community? Could it be because she's a Republican?

Who's stirring up this pot? Some conservative like O'Reilly, Limbaugh, North? Nope, just a liberal Black female newspaper columnist.
posted by pardonyou? (46 comments total)

 
I read this column in the actual paper-and-ink Detroit Free Press back on 11/23, but forgot about it until I saw Ms. Rice on CNN. I was reminded of the column, and thought it might make a good discussion piece. And before you question my motives, I'm neither a Republican nor conservative. But this seems inexplicable and inexcusable to me -- she is one impressive person. And you can't even use the "Clarence Thomas argument" that she's shunned because she's responsible for implementing policies that are detrimental to the Black community.
posted by pardonyou? at 5:58 AM on December 17, 2001


Maybe its because she's as telegenic as an iguana. She always comes off (to me anyway) as frosty, elitist and remote. Maybe its just me...
posted by BentPenguin at 6:13 AM on December 17, 2001


I can't speak to why the black community isn't lionizing her -- if indeed they aren't -- but I can assert that a successful National Security Adviser shouldn't be highly visible. It's just not that kind of job.
posted by alumshubby at 6:14 AM on December 17, 2001


If Bush is re-elected, I wouldn't be surprised to see her as VP due to Cheney's health. Also, Colin Powell is getting old, and she could replace him at State. Either way, look for to run for president in 8 to 12 years.

Wouldn't that be a hoot? The first African American president, the first woman president, and she's a Republican!
posted by argon405 at 6:17 AM on December 17, 2001


I remember watching a special on Condoleeza Rice (or the more manageable "Condi" as friends and family shortened it to) on BBC's "The War Zone" series. She appeared to be unsatisfied with being anything but the best at everything she did. It also suggested that she was possibly the closest person to the president in the entire administration, but that in the remit of her current role she would never be a high profile government personality. Riley's article is interesting but seems to say that not being "rock star big" is instead somehow proof of political prejudices, rather than just being part of the job.
posted by dlewis at 6:24 AM on December 17, 2001


Condoleeza Rice is an outstanding individual who had my respect. Black, white, green, brown, male or female she's the best person for the job.

I wish black america would look to her as a role model and forget Jesse Jackson...
posted by Macboy at 6:33 AM on December 17, 2001


Rochelle Riley seems to be right. On BlackPressUSA.com, I searched for "Condoleezza Rice" and found only two minor references: "Africa And The Terrorism Crisis" and "Blacks' rating of Bush soars in wake of attacks."

Rice may be avoiding all press attention after early, condescending treatment like this: When George W. Bush tapped foreign policy expert Condoleezza Rice to be the first female National Security Advisor, a front-page New York Times story (12/18/00) reported that "her dress size is between a 6 and an 8... because of 'muscle mass.'"

IMO, Rice is brilliant, but icy--no way could she succeed in electoral politics!
posted by Carol Anne at 6:33 AM on December 17, 2001


Republicans have had their eye on Condi Rice since the first Bush administration. She's bright, charismatic, articulate, and able to explain complex foreign policy issues in language even the media can understand. I wouldn't be surprised to see her name on the ticket as a VP candidate in 7 years. She has two major drawbacks as a rising political star, as I see it. The first is her strength, her expertise in foreign policy. US voters are highly focused on domestic and economic issues ("It's the economy, stupid"), and don't don't seem to moved by politicians whose strength is in foreign affairs. Example: Richard Lugar of Indiana is respected on both sides of the aisle for his foreign policy expertise, and his overall intelligence and fairness. But his 1995 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination got no traction at all with the voters.

Her second weakness is that her background is academic, not political, and she has never held elective office. But that can be remedied. I'd love to see her take on either of California's senatrices.

Condoleezza Rice's career is still in the logarithmic part of its curve. It'll be interesting to watch.

BentPenguin: huh? An iguana? Her presence is absolutely riveting. Oh, well. No accounting for taste.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:34 AM on December 17, 2001


and she has never held elective office

El Presidente has only held one, and his background is neither academic nor political.
posted by tolkhan at 6:42 AM on December 17, 2001


Remeber, that's 21st Century politics--everyone hates politicians.
posted by jpoulos at 6:45 AM on December 17, 2001


Wouldn't that be a hoot? The first African American president, the first woman president, and she's a Republican!

Not surprising at all. If we have a black president or a female president in the next 20 years, it will almost certainly be a Republican. Because a black or female Republican candidate would likely get some votes from blacks and women who normally vote Democrat. There's much less of that effect among Republicans.
posted by straight at 7:05 AM on December 17, 2001


Could it bew because she has an oil tanker named after her? She's not a role model for my children!
posted by fleener at 7:06 AM on December 17, 2001


Wouldn't that be a hoot? The first African American president, the first woman president, and she's a Republican!

Not gonna happen as long as the "Southern Republicans" are the decision makers of the party. Just look at the close associations to racist groups of these men. Can't imagine a single & black & woman ever getting the nod from Jim Crow.
posted by nofundy at 7:12 AM on December 17, 2001


I wish black america would look to her as a role model and forget Jesse Jackson...

Of course, this is somewhat based on the media-sanctioned idea that there is "black leadership" and by golly we know Jesse's name so we'll get "the black opinion" from him.

Condi Rice is an egghead, and (warranted or not) people will go for someone who "blows stuff up" (Powell) over an egghead.
posted by owillis at 7:17 AM on December 17, 2001


Personally, I think C. Rice would be a fantastic president - smart, determined, solid. And I think the power of the Jim Crow south is overrated. Sure, there'd by some squeaking, but by and large the racist southerner is a marginalized individual without much power.

Politically, I find it somewhat amusing that, despite all the big tent talk, it took a Republican president to name the first black Secretary of State and National Security Advisor.
posted by UncleFes at 7:50 AM on December 17, 2001


As slithy pointed out, being publicly visible isn't normally something that falls on the National Security Adviser, except in times of foreign crisis. It also depends on the structure of the administration, and who the president trusts more. Sandy Berger, under Clinton, was pretty visible during Kosovo etc., but his predecessor Anthony Lake was a complete cipher, and was known to have a cool relationship with his boss.

Bush has a thing about picking capable people, but using them in ways that don't necessarily correspond to the usual brief of their office. Strangest example: his dispatching of George Tenet, CIA Director, as his Middle East peace envoy. Uh, wha? Now it's a general, which makes only slightly more sense, no matter how well Powell trusts him. I think both choices spoke more to the signal Bush was trying to send to either side than to how he thought their jobs were defined, but I'm damned if I can figure either one out.

Anyway, Rice is an egghead, and she does have a frosty, one might even say haughty, demeanor -- which usually doesn't work well on television. I'm also not sure I see her going for the top office; it's not only that she'd make a weak candidate, drawing on the earlier cited examples of Lugar and her academic background, but that she's never pursued politics on the ground. That really takes a certain kind of person, a gladhander and a communicator, and as we've seen with Powell, copious talent in other fields doesn't always match up with that type. Technocrats come across as distant and unlikable (see Dukakis, n.)

Also, Oliver's right -- the position of "black leader" that Jesse's not unwillingly forced into is really a media creation. It's something that would probably exist whether or not Rev. Jackson existed. There really are a number of political leaders who could just as easily be the "black leader", ranging from the ridiculous Sharpton (shudder) to the sober (and electorally proven) Kweisi Mfume. If you have a question about racism in society, you need a talking head, and that goes to someone like Jesse who has a political base, who has a policy position, who has a prepared statement. Condi Rice, for all her talent, has no apparent interest in the issues of domestic politics where Jesse Jackson is cited. She's not going to replace him in that way.

It's also prejudicial to assume that "black America" chooses one single role model in public life (heck, most people of any stripe say their biggest role models are their parents). There certainly is a new generation of college-educated young people entering government and public service. One of them is Jesse Jackson, Jr.
posted by dhartung at 7:52 AM on December 17, 2001


Other good black&Republican role-models: Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams
posted by dagny at 8:22 AM on December 17, 2001


Why is it anyone's business to tell an imaginary monolithic black community who they should admire? At the least the attitude seem presumptous.
posted by rdr at 8:32 AM on December 17, 2001


I'm with rdr. There's a sort of patronizing subtext at work: "Here. We've given you a strong, smart, black woman to admire, and you aren't lining up to kiss her feet. What's wrong with you?"

I think that, until colorful faces are seen in high office on a regular basis, the few that are there will be seen as tokens. For all her skills, experience and qualifications, Rice sticks out of that administration like a sore thumb.
posted by jpoulos at 8:48 AM on December 17, 2001


She may not have the pathological need for public approval/attention that elected national figures all seem to possess these days. Even Powell, who these days seems particularly interested in burnishing his own image, doesn't seem interested in doing the back-slapping, baby-kissing, fund-raising thing that people like our last prez actually thrived on.

But then, I've always suspected that anyone who manages to fight their way into the national spotlight may be slightly insane.

And let me just add my own "ick!" regarding talk of role models for the entire African American community.
posted by coelecanth at 8:52 AM on December 17, 2001


rdr, it's not anyone's business who should tell the "black community" who they should admire. The question is, why isn't the black community more admiring of Rice? If the answer is (and it no doubt is) that she's Republican, that lends a highly-political slant to the general desire to see more blacks rise to positions of power. In other words, whenever you hear "We are still looking for more minority role models -- more minorities in positions of power," make sure you notice that asterisk that says "*as long as he or she is a Democrat"
posted by pardonyou? at 8:58 AM on December 17, 2001


I just like to see a smart, savvy, kick-ass woman so high up. I'm proud of her, no matter what color she is and despite the fact that I'm a Democrat. I'm a big fan of hers. It's too bad she isn't talked about more everywhere, since she is one of the 5 most powerful people out there.

She should be a role model for all women, black, white, asian, whatever.
posted by aacheson at 9:01 AM on December 17, 2001


Hmmm. ". . . Lugar and her academic background." Among those who've had an academic background in office in recent years: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Newt Gingrich, etc. Woodrow Wilson, egghead extraordinaire, still ranks near the top in most presidential rankings. It's not unheard of for an academic to do well in politics, and the "egghead" thing is pretty prejudicial in that regard. "Frosty" might be a better reason for her not being so popular. Also, re her lack of popularity in the black community, she was criticized for not pressing diversity among the faculty while at Stanford, even though she's an admitted affirmative action beneficiary. Might have something to do with the popularity bit, might not. But it's certainly worth throwing out there.
posted by raysmj at 9:12 AM on December 17, 2001


[ An iguana? Her presence is absolutely riveting. ]

I'll have to agree with you, I haven't been able to turn the channel when she is on. She has an absolutely brilliant mind!

[She should be a role model for all women, black, white, asian, whatever.]

If my son turned out to be a person as well informed and intelligent as Condi it would make me a very happy person. Why limit her appeal to women?
posted by revbrian at 9:24 AM on December 17, 2001


I am surrounded by southern rednecks who love Colin Powell and don't care if he is purple.

If Condoleeza wants to run at some point she will get some of their votes, I imagine.

Who said stereotypical Southern white people were consistent?
posted by bunnyfire at 9:46 AM on December 17, 2001


I would have to guess that the perception of Powell as an army vet who won a war under a Republican president is significantly different than of a black female intellectual.

I just don't get the feeling that middle America is ready for VP Rice.
posted by owillis at 9:52 AM on December 17, 2001


I've been impressed with Rice, though the fact that she served on the Chevron board and has an oil tanker named after her tends to highlight the incestuous relationship this administration has with the oil industry.

I find it interesting that when Clinton made a point of having a cabinet "that looks like America" i.e. diverse, he was criticized by the right for supposedly pandering to mulitculturalists, but when Bush goes out of his way to do the same, it's called "being a uniter."

re: Rice's blackness. Without sounding patronizing, i think it's a good sign that someone like Rice, who doesn't share the "traditional" views of "mainstream African Americans" (an in creasingly irrelevant term), has risen to such a position of power, unlike, say, Clarence Thomas, who was, at the time of his appointment, spectacularly unqualified for the Supreme Court, and was chosen, in a cravenly racist political gesture, solely for the color of his skin.
posted by Ty Webb at 10:24 AM on December 17, 2001


Straight is probably correct in that the first black US President and/or VP will be on a GOP ticket. See how Republicans positively drool over Powell or JC Watts. I suspect most of the southern Republicans that supposedly control the GOP care much more about religion than race these days, particularly the younger ones and that as such a suitably conservative black like Watts wouldn't find white racism a huge obstacle to gaining the nomination. Far from it, Republicans would be tripping over each other to demonstrate they aren't racist via practicing a voluntary form of affirmative action in deciding their nomination.

BTW there's also a black woman Republican appointee on the California Supreme Count. I gather she isn't an intellectual heavyweight like Rice, but since when has that ever been a requirement for winning office?

I don't hate Bush as much as some do, but I'm still amazed every time I hear his voice at just how retarded he sounds. Of course Clinton didn't exactly come off as a genius either.
posted by mlinksva at 10:33 AM on December 17, 2001


Dare I say it?

Just because she's black (or if she was not black) doesn't mean that I (or anyone else) should vote for her. I say judge her on her record, not on her party affiliation or her skin color (which lots of people here seem perfectly willing to do).

Personally, I don't see a minority (or woman) president in my lifetime. America is a lot more racist (and sexist) than most people will admit. I don't think she could get elected to public office. Charisma gets people elected in the U.S. and she doesn't have any that I can see. Just ask Al Gore.

(BTW, Vice-Presidents don't count. Never have, never will.)
posted by zeb vance at 11:24 AM on December 17, 2001


She makes my skin crawl. The textbook case of a compromised intellectual. Long before she had the NSA job lined up, everything out of her mouth was self-serving political drivel. IQ/wonkiness/academic-styled punditry does not constitute an understanding of foreign affairs that can create prudent national policy. As to why African-Americans don't worship her, isn't it enough that she is an "icy" creature (as her admirers say) who always loved to brownnose with the party saddled with a still-living racist legacy?
posted by Zurishaddai at 12:07 PM on December 17, 2001


Zurishaddai-
Compromised intellectual, wow that's pretty strong. Care to provide any support for that statement, besides the fact that you obviously don't like her?
posted by Ty Webb at 12:25 PM on December 17, 2001


I'm not sure support is necessary for statements like that, considering the followup includes "brownnose" and "racist." "Compromised intellectual" is almost praise in that company.
posted by UncleFes at 1:05 PM on December 17, 2001


Yeah, she gets my goat. All I can say in my defense is that she bothered me as much when I heard her speak before her political significance as a potential part of a Bush administration, as after. I know my opinions have zero persuasive force. I just thought that, since this thread was so adulatory with an equal lack of substantial evidence for the profoundness of her intellect, even a coarse statement like mine would provide some needed variety. :)
posted by Zurishaddai at 1:20 PM on December 17, 2001


P.S. No question she is a formidable expert on the byzantine workings of the Soviet state. It's her motives in eagerly branching into the field of politics that I question.

Even her ability to gain equal mastery over new areas of geopolitics and strategy is not in question. Rather, I suspect that (especially in the period culminating in the campaign) she departed from the academic mode and discovered the pleasure of using her real academic credentials to acquire an audience for all kinds of unrelated and irresponsible pronouncements (re Balkan situation, etc.). That's what I specifically meant by "compromised intellectual" (which was admittedly a polemical expression).

And I guess I have no excuse for suggesting the G.O.P. is so disgusting that launching yourself into its good graces raises suspicion per se...
posted by Zurishaddai at 1:33 PM on December 17, 2001


how Republicans positively drool over... JC Watts

Watts, besides being a lier, is corrupt. not a good example.
posted by tolkhan at 1:48 PM on December 17, 2001


Dear Zeb Vance.

My city has problems with racism. This is the city where a few years back, two people were murdered in cold blood simply because they were black.

We just elected a black mayor-who was running against a white "downtown crowd" incumbent.

Would you like some salt and pepper for those words?

posted by bunnyfire at 4:04 PM on December 17, 2001


Bad example of what? Corruption is nearly always overlooked by a politician's backers and fans, and most otherwise uncommitted voters as well.
posted by mlinksva at 4:48 PM on December 17, 2001


pardonyou?, thanks for starting an interesting thread.

I'll pony up this Washington Post profile on Rice (parts 1 and 2) and follow-up Q-'n'-A with author Dale Russakof. I hope these articles can provide some insight into Rice's perception within and outside the African-American community.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 6:50 PM on December 17, 2001


Politically, I find it somewhat amusing that, despite all the big tent talk, it took a Republican president to name the first black Secretary of State and National Security Advisor.

Amusing much in the same way that Alanis finds rain on a wedding day to be ironic, right? (IOW, there's nothing remotely "amusing" about it.)

There's a sort of patronizing subtext at work: "Here. We've given you a strong, smart, black woman to admire, and you aren't lining up to kiss her feet. What's wrong with you?"

Patronising or not, it's a legitimate question and someone needs to be asking it loudly, unabashedly and repeatedly. For every Condi Rice, Marian Wright Edelman, Mae Jemison or even Oprah Winfrey who embody pursuits which require education and intellectual effort, time, commitment and talent, there are a plethora of vapid, empty "role models" who dominate the attention and the accolades of the African-American community. Far more young African-American girls will name models, dime-a-dozen actresses or singers/rappers of dubious talent or personal integrity as their heroines than even know who Rice or Jemison are. That's a big problem.

I'll pony up this Washington Post profile on Rice (parts 1 and 2) and follow-up Q-'n'-A with author Dale Russakof.

Be forewarned that the Q&A is not about Rice as much as Russakof's view of her from the (in-depth) interview process. While illuminating, it's not necessarily from a clear perspective, at all.
posted by Dreama at 7:35 PM on December 17, 2001



Patronising or not, it's a legitimate question and someone needs to be asking it loudly, unabashedly and repeatedly. For every Condi Rice, Marian
Wright Edelman, Mae Jemison or even Oprah Winfrey who embody pursuits which require education and intellectual effort, time, commitment and talent,
there are a plethora of vapid, empty "role models" who dominate the attention and the accolades of the African-American community. Far more young
African-American girls will name models, dime-a-dozen actresses or singers/rappers of dubious talent or personal integrity as their heroines than even
know who Rice or Jemison are. That's a big problem.


Dreama:
Before I took upon myself to decide what is important to african-american girls I'd feel obligated to at least ask some of them.

If you surveyed most americans about the people they admire my guess is that B. Spears would outrank Joan Didion and Michael Jackson would outrank Steven Hawking. I'd disagree but I'm not arrogant enough to believe that they will or even should listen to me.
posted by rdr at 7:56 PM on December 17, 2001


rdr -- before you question what I know about what's important to African-American girls or girls or colour, you might want to know who I am and who is in my family. In other words, I'm talking about my own, here. And if you think it's arrogant that I'd prefer that my young cousins and nieces to idolise or take life cues from a scientist, CEO, astronaut or a national security advisor instead of Lil Kim, Jada Pinkett or Destiny's Child, well, I'll gladly cop to that arrogance.
posted by Dreama at 8:47 PM on December 17, 2001


I guess the most interesting thing to me here is the rampant presumptions about "the black community". Not that it's any surprise, but...yeah.

Some facts:
Condy is a BABE, totally cute, dresses nice and has great dimples, plain and simple.

She is neither a "puppet" nor a "token", but a person who has been groomed from the start to do precisely what she is doing now: sitting on top of the world and simply being the best, color, gender, blahblah.

This is coming from a straight-up lefty-liberal, who harbors no admiration whatsoever for Ms. Rice's political framework.

I have no doubt it's going to confuse a lot of people here, the revolutionary idea that Black people are capable of complex, independent political thought, regardless of what and the desktop pundits at MeFi have been raised to believe.

And! [Gasp!] some of us have even gotten terribly bored with this annoying "admiration"/"role model" paradigm. Her brilliance comes as no surprise to us.

Love ya, Condy! Even if you are a right-wing neo-con.
posted by Carmen Jonze at 10:58 PM on December 17, 2001


I guess the most interesting thing to me here is the rampant presumptions about "the black community".

I was at the meeting last month, we set "the black agenda" for 2002. For those who couldn't attend, a packet is on its way in the mail.

We just elected a black mayor-who was running against a white "downtown crowd" incumbent.

A local mayor is a far cry from leader of the free world. Look at all the congratulatory back-slapping about "how far we've come" when Lieberman was chosen as a VP candidate last year. Never mind that Lieberman's an old white guy who happens to be Jewish. America isn't ready to have a woman lead them, much less a racial minority.
posted by owillis at 12:07 AM on December 18, 2001


I was at the meeting last month, we set "the black agenda" for 2002. For those who couldn't attend, a packet is on its way in the mail.

Hahahaha, good one O-Dub. I'll be sure to iron it as soon as I get it.

America isn't ready to have a woman lead them, much less a racial minority.

Certain factions of America were also "not ready" to end slavery. And also "not ready" for female suffrage, or a 40-hour workweek. And also "not ready" for Civil Rights, 60s style. Still aren't in many cases.

I say, so what. Ready or not, there she is. And if not her, then someone else, for whom she paved the path.
posted by Carmen Jonze at 2:36 AM on December 18, 2001


While I certainly agree with you, that's my take on the "reality" of the current racial state of America.
posted by owillis at 3:21 AM on December 18, 2001


Is it so unbelievable that Condi is largely ignored by "Black America"?

A. She is a high ranking member of a party that is opposed to many of the programs and services that are perceived as beneficial (not to mention that most feel that her party should never have been elected - a fact that the 9/11 crisis will justifiably overshadow).

B. She has never made an attempt to forge any ties with any of the perceived "leaders" of "Black America" (not even Oprah - just kidding). She seems unfailingly indifferent on matters of race (or gender for that matter). See the end of this article.

C. By comparison, she is boring. Attractive, intelligent, capable, talented, etc. In private life, she may be the most charming and pleasant person in D.C., but appropriately for her current position, she appears steady and boring.

She really seems to be the perfect person for her position, ust too far out of view for anyone to care. Maybe she needs a new or better publicist, although I hardly think she cares.

Incidentally, am I the only one who thinks that the vast majority of the time that someone speaks of this supposedly monolithic Black Community, it is by someone who is not Black?
posted by mbawiz at 7:56 AM on December 19, 2001


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