Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Race in America: Apropos of Ms. Parks' demise, this editorial in the Washington Post, by Eugene Robinson, looks at why Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice doesn't seem to have the same perspective on America and questions of race as her black brothers and sisters. After all, she eagerly and effectively works for a president who garners only a 2% approval rating from the African-American community. Robinson tips his hand early, in the first paragraph, as to how fair a shake he's prepared to give somebody who he doesn't have the same authentic black experience as himself and the other 98% of the black population.
Like a lot of African Americans, I've long wondered what the deal was with
Condoleezza Rice and the issue of race. How does she work so loyally for George
W. Bush, whose approval rating among blacks was measured in a recent poll at a
negligible 2 percent? How did she come to a worldview so radically different
from that of most black Americans? Is she blind, is she in denial, is she
confused -- or what?

I mean, come now, isn't it at least possible that Rice's worldview might have something valuable to offer black Americans. No, she must be "blind, ...in denial,...confused--or what?" What's that Mr. Robinson? Or white? Oh, no, what. Sorry, they sounded alike just there for a sec.

Robinson describes Rice's childhood thus.

Rice's parents tried their best to shelter their only daughter from Jim Crow
racism, and they succeeded. Forty years later, Rice shows no bitterness when she
recalls her childhood in a town whose streets were ruled by the segregationist
police chief Bull Connor. "I've always said about Birmingham that because race
was everything, race was nothing," she said in an interview on the flight home.

Not being part of the black experience, authentic or otherwise, I can't say for sure, but this sounds like how a lot parents try to raise their children, protect them from harm and hope they grow to be happy, healthy and productive individuals. Is he criticizing Rice's parents for being somewhat better placed than many other blacks, and, worse, using that status to better shield their daughter from some of the worst examples of racism and bigotry? The nerve of them. They should have known they'd be preventing her from fully internalizing the hatred and bitterness so necessary to succeed in the world today. What a handicap.

The struggle of black people from the despicable institution of slavery, into the only slightly better Jim Crow era, and eventually to a place where one of their own can hold one of the most powerful positions in our government has been long and hard, and is arguably still incomplete. The question Robinson should be asking is "What is it about Rice that's allowed her reach such heights despite being raised in the time and place that she was? What can be learned from her path?"

Robinson doesn't ask those questions. I'm not sure if he doesn't want to hear the answers, or what? He'd rather cast Rice as somehow less than qualified to represent real blacks. If I were her I'd be insulted.

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