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As a possible 'sister,' Condi Rice disappoints

As a possible 'sister,' Condi Rice disappoints

By E.R. Shipp
New York Daily News

August 11, 2005

An acquaintance recently recounted meetings involving Condoleezza Rice and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. During one, Rice was accompanied by a black military official who briefed Annan and G-8 leaders. At another, a black female high-ranking State Department official. My acquaintance and I were impressed, even surprised, that on the q-t, girlfriend may actually be a girlfriend.

I try to keep that image in mind as I try to figure Rice out, but ultimately I am disappointed. On one hand, she represents what black folks in the '50s and '60s wanted: someone judged by the content of her character and not her skin or gender. On the other, many blacks say, she represents -- and even advocates -- policies that do not advance blacks in the United States or elsewhere.

She was described in the New Yorker a few years ago as "an unusually disciplined, discreet person." That serves her well in this super-secretive Bush administration. But she leaves me cold, especially in recent days when she has allied herself with President Bush's stealth appointment of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, saying that Bolton is her idea.

"She's a good soldier," catching flak for her boss, says Randolph McLaughlin, a law professor at Pace University.

Michael Meyers of the New York Civil Rights Coalition says she is not merely a mouthpiece for Bush. An insider told me Rice mesmerizes congressional panels, neutralizing even black Democrats.

McLaughlin considers her to be "the new African-American, a neo-African-American," one not defined by the old expectations. Rice is, as McLaughlin puts it, "very bland." There is no there there to latch on to. She is all about the Bush administration.

I want to see passion about the kinds of issues that I, and, frankly, many black Americans, care about. Sending Bolton to the United Nations seems to be bad news for the United Nations and for building coalitions for solving world problems, especially in Africa and the Middle East.

Maybe she is this political generation's Booker T. Washington, who one historian described as "self-assured and influential." He, too, had the ear of presidents. He, too, was a Republican. This is what Louis Harlan wrote about this black man: "Washington was a pragmatist who engaged in deliberate ambiguity in order to sustain white recognition of his leadership."

Is that Rice or what?

E.R. Shipp is a columnist for the New York Daily News. She can be reached at


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