But Would Condi Vote for Obama?


A while back, I posed a question on a message board: is there a black person more reviled by black people than Clarence Thomas? The overwhelming answer: no.

But what surprised me was how much Condi Rice seemed to be challenging Justice Thomas for that dubious title; there’s real contempt there for her — of a limbic, primal nature. Marcus Mabry’s bio of Rice, Twice As Good, includes an anecdote wherein the staff of Essence magazine revolted when she was considered for the cover of its “power” issue. I knew she wasn’t popular among Negroes, but I thought it was just a passive dislike, and not a livid, I’ll-quit-my-job-if-you-big-up-that-lady kind of loathing.

Is this just (most) black people’s reflexive response to Negro Republicans at work? That’s certainly part of it. She’s also a woman — and the kind of woman that people tend to automatically be suspicious of: cerebral, inscrutable, ambitious. Case in point:

The sexist implication: Condi just needs some good dick.

Anyway, I’m digressing.

Last week, Rice made headlines when she called racism America’s “birth defect.” And Negroes were, well, perplexed.

Here’s the quote:

“Black Americans were a founding population,” she said. “Africans and Europeans came here and founded this country together — Europeans by choice and Africans in chains. That’s not a very pretty reality of our founding.”

As a result, Miss Rice told editors and reporters at The Washington Times, “descendants of slaves did not get much of a head start, and I think you continue to see some of the effects of that.”

“That particular birth defect makes it hard for us to confront it, hard for us to talk about it, and hard for us to realize that it has continuing relevance for who we are today,” she said.

Race has become an issue in this year’s presidential campaign, which prompted a much-discussed speech last week by Sen. Barack Obama, one of the two remaining contenders for the Democratic nomination.

Miss Rice declined to comment on the campaign, saying only that it was “important” that Mr. Obama “gave it for a whole host of reasons.”

But she spoke forcefully on the subject, citing personal and family experience to illustrate “a paradox and contradiction in this country,” which “we still haven’t resolved.”

On the one hand, she said, race in the U.S. “continues to have effects” on public discussions and “the deepest thoughts that people hold.” On the other, “enormous progress” has been made, which allowed her to become the nation’s chief diplomat.

“America doesn’t have an easy time dealing with race,” Miss Rice said, adding that members of her family have “endured terrible humiliations.”

“What I would like understood as a black American is that black Americans loved and had faith in this country even when this country didn’t love and have faith in them — and that’s our legacy,” she said.

There’s nothing particularly bold about any of that. But black conservatism is often simplistically assumed to be the domain of self-hating handkerchief heads who aspire to whiteness. And nevermind that the pro-affirmative action Rice — who is also “mildly pro-choice” — is probably more of a moderate than a social conservative. (She’s ducked questions about her stance on gay marriage.)

Obviously, a host of Bush administration initiatives have been ill-conceived and arguably criminal, and Rice has been the public face of a lot of that policy. But to hit Rice with the sellout sword — and to be surprised that a black child of the Jim Crow South would take issue with American racism — means folks are too invested in ideas about “authentic blackness” to actually pay attention.



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • *resists the urge to snicker at the Boondocks comic*
    Ok, seriously, that isn’t the first time the charge of “she needs to get laid” has been leveled at Condi. Back in 2006, a Russian politician, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, stated that her “coarse nature” came from the fact she was single and childless. (http://english.pravda.ru/main/18/88/354/16724_Condoleezza.html)

    Granted, for old school, Soviet era Russians this isn’t really a shocking statement. That’s how they think, and, let’s be completely honest, that’s how a lot of us think. A woman who exerts her power and influence is one of a few things: a ball-breaking bitch, PMSing or Menopausal, or someone in desperate need of a healthy dose of “Vitamin D”. It’s a deeply ingrained, unacknowledged, highly chauvinistic belief that in order for a woman to be happy, her life must bear some semblance to that of Donna Reed or June Cleaver.

    And on the subject of calling Condoleeza a sellout…ok, I’m guilty of it too. She works for an administration that really hasn’t had the needs of the low and lower middle income or minorities high on their list of priorities. But what administration really has? However, I’m with Randall Kennedy, we need to redefine what makes a “sell out” and stop throwing the term around so loosely. Just because we don’t approve of someone’s politics doesn’t really mean they’re a sell out…does it?

  • question: does this make my weird attraction to Condi okay?

  • section9

    The problem, of course, is that you haven’t been listening. She’s been saying this stuff for years, ever since Stanford. However, because she is a conservative Republican, you only hear this stuff when she says it in a way that supposedly challenges conventional Republican wisdom.

    Which is, of course, complete bullshit. We don’t get up in the morning thinking of ways to screw the black man. We have lives, and are normal people, and nobody in my party wants to, you know, bring back slavery.

    Except, perhaps, Pat Buchanan, but he’s shanty Irish. You’ve got to watch them. They start fights in bars when they’ve had a wee bit ‘o the Creature.

  • LH

    I agree that it’s wrongheaded to label Rice a sellout but am not at all surprised when I hear it done. She doesn’t exist within the ideological space that blacks (particularly in the States) have carved out for themselves. As such, it doesn’t much matter that the substance of her statements about America’s problem with race rings true.

  • Wait – isn’t every woman who shows negative emotion on her period or in need of a good rogering? It’s only been said about everyone from Queen Elizabeth to Leona Helmsley.

    Condi is like that high school senior who wine the national lute playing competition or some such – she found her niche and rose to power because there is no one ‘like’ her. She’s capable and smart, etc, but she’s also playing a game. Not to say that her beliefs are not genuine, but she saw an opportunity to work the system that she could work best – the Republican Party. The word for that concept is usually “house negro,” hence the disdain.

  • [quote]Just because we don’t approve of someone’s politics doesn’t really mean they’re a sell out…does it?[/quote]

    Being a Republican is one thing. Working for the Bush/Cheney gang is quite another.

  • LH

    thembi: When did Rice see this opportunity and how did she go about working the Republican Party?

  • i say she votes for obama. this is a good post, i linked it.

  • Steve

    It’s ridiculous as we all know that people mostly look at 1. Her hair 2. Assume she never gets laid…

    My understanding of her involvement with republicans is during grad school she fully believed that Reagan’s position on the Cold War was correct… and that swayed her to become a republican.

    This is a woman whose closest friends include Ginsburg and Feinstein among others…. I geniunely believe that she believes that republican foreign policy is better. She is also extremely loyal to the Bush family and I mean he’s probably her most trusted adviser. But I’m also sure she’s socially liberal as people have figured out here and there.

    But there is also speculation that her speeches lately in the U.S. reflect a possible VP bid but I doubt it

  • thembi: house negro? does she get hit with that solely because she’s a Republican, even if her views on social issues (education being the likely exception) probably aren’t that divergent from Obama’s?

  • Big Word

    I think Ms. Rice is largely a victim guilt by association. Association with Clarence Thomas. I think people have been so successful in turning him into the defintive sellout that anybody who’s black and a high profile conservative republican automatically is almost automatically cast as suspect. I tend to think of her as a Coilin Powell type. To me her biggest fault is her blind loyalty to Bush’s foreign policy.

  • I think what’s really telling about that statement is the reaction by conservatives. Which *hopefully* pretty much conclusively demonstrates to half-intelligent people that the Wright “controversy” wasn’t about the “god damn America” thing….