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Is Rice a Neo-Tom?
Compiled by the DiversityInc staff
© 2005
February 04, 2005

Analysis of today's diversity news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the San Francisco Chronicle, MSNBC, The Washington Post, AlterNet and more:

Wherever one stands on the new secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, she has been a loyal member of the Republican Party and the Bush team. That has made her a darling of the conservative right, while it enrages progressives. It's the kind of rage that Erin Aubry Kaplan, writing for AlterNet, couldn't contain while writing a blazing op-ed about Rice's loyalty to conservatives, despite her upbringing in the segregated South. "Not only does Rice go along with the new black paradigm (which is also an old one – black female helpmate to a wealthy but incompetent white man who can barely tie his shoes), she aids and abets it without a twinge of conscience."
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This is the great piece that goes alone with the question being asked.

Black history month is upon us, and it already feels like it weighs a ton. I've never entirely embraced the notion of relegating the observance to February – as every black comic has pointed out, it's the shortest month of the year – because it always feels less like a tribute than more segregation, a perennial substitute for permanently incorporating black history into the larger American narrative set forth in textbooks, daily papers and such. But the last decade of black history has been so dubious, so double-edged and so increasingly alien to what I've always thought of as racial and social progress, I'd almost be willing to skip the whole thing in '05. And I'd pass for one reason in particular: Condoleezza Rice.

For years now, my wrath for Rice has been simmering. With her tight smirk, serpentine gaze and hopelessly immutable hairdo, she's been Bush's black doppelgänger to a tee, albeit better-spoken. Initially, I thought she was progress on the public-image front, maybe – unlike her boss, she didn't resort to church-spun homilies, crass emotionalism or bad grammar to make a point. But certainly I'd hoped that beneath the starch there was some bit of sistah empathy, some meaningful connection to a Southern upbringing of burning crosses and strict segregation that practically all of us over 40 share but can't necessarily show, especially in politics. I had less and less faith as time went on that Rice harbored such a connection, but I kept hope alive anyway – one of the best and worst things about black people is a willingness to nurse optimism that often has zero basis in fact. Call me crazy.

I've finally gotten wise. Rice's recent, shockingly easy ascension to secretary of state has tipped my long simmer into a boil. I now feel free to call her what she is, a hermetic ideologue and rank opportunist who has about as much feeling for black people as for American people in general, which is none. That makes Rice the model Bushie, but her model-ness partly derives from the fact that, much to the secret delight of fellow neocons, she also represents just about everything that's gone haywire with black progress in the last decade and notably during the last four years. For starters, Rice is a very high-profile bit of history authored not by black people, but by white cynics like Bush who get to tailor a racial paradigm to his liking and then declare it democracy at work and liberty for all. This is not new, of course; Poppy Bush orchestrated the same thing last decade when he nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. Until blacks crack the white power structure that still governs this country, their interests will always be at the mercy of somebody else, which means that the higher a black person rises, the more likely it is he or she will align with the power structure, not the people.

But Condoleezza Rice shows us just how unpalatable this color-coded Peter Principle can be. From her perch as national security advisor and now as secretary of state, she gets to stump for the Iraq war, admit to her starring role in the Big Lie that brought about the war while not admitting to the lie itself and suffer no consequences, intensify America's isolation in the world and thereby endanger not just us, but the entire planet. She gets to ignore the well-being of black people – including all those soldiers of color who've died or come back maimed – but always sell herself as a black success story without ever having to tell the gory details. Not only does Rice go along with the new black paradigm (which is also an old one – black female helpmate to a wealthy but incompetent white man who can barely tie his shoes), she aids and abets it without a twinge of conscience. She embodies the worst instincts of the new black middle-to-upper class elite that W.E.B. DuBois realized way back in 1950 was probably going to be the sop of white folks, not the savior of black ones. So despondent was he about what he saw coming, he pulled up stakes and spent the last years of his life in Africa.

There are other blacks out there like Rice, those not just disinclined to racial justice but who actively work against it, but they don't have the latitude or platform that she has been given. And in these God-and-country times, Rice is making the most of her platform by aggressively proving herself as super-patriotic as blacks have been all along, though her idea of patriotism – blind corporate loyalty that rewards with promotions and more loyalty – is exactly 180 degrees away from what King meant when he talked about loving America enough to stand against it in ways like opposing the Vietnam War. I've never heard Rice speak about King, a fellow native of the deep South, but that's probably a good thing. The NAACP had the bad sense to give Rice an achievement award a few years ago – it might have been holding out the same foolish hope for her that I did – and the black press exclaimed over her gown, but nothing else. For papers still charged with mindlessly exhorting black progress and honorees of any kind, this was a very pointed silence. Among blacks of national stature, only Clarence Thomas has gotten similar if-we-can't-say-anything-nice-let's-not-say-anything-at-all treatment.

Another thing I despise about Rice is how she's given affirmative action, already on the ropes, a bad name. Her appointment is all Bush's doing, but many people want to admire her because they prefer to see an educated, single-minded black woman who shouldered her way to the top on the strength of her character and qualifications. Yet Rice is not qualified to be secretary of state, not because she's black but because she's inexperienced, partisan to the point of cheapening the position and its function, a colossal failure as a diplomat, and – last but hardly least – has a thin record that reflects she's already lied about and/or covered up dirty doings in foreign policy that predate 9/11.

Aside from smearing the reputation of affirmative action, Rice also impugns a long-held and rather useful belief that black people are the moral compass of the nation, that as victims of generations of cruel and openly hypocritical public policy, our bullshit radar is more keenly developed than most. Alas, Rice is the bullshit we all need to be guarding against now, along with a string of other so-called history-making Negroes – military man Colin Powell, who sold out his old rank and file when he peddled the Iraq war to the world at the U.N. with those ridiculous maps and pointers; son and soon-to-be ex-FCC chief Michael Powell, whose great vision was to make big media bigger and less accountable; conservative commentator Armstrong Williams, who turned out to be on the Republican Party dole and the worst kind of welfare cheat. Black people have their crooks and hustlers, sure, but Rice and company are hustlers of an entirely different class and caliber to say nothing of pay scale – creatures of the same system and social circles that remain tremendously indifferent to blacks, at best. Compared to Rice, accused con men like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are paragons of virtue – however manipulative they are, they never lose sight of their base. Politically, Rice has never been beholden to anybody but a Bush – remember that Freudian slip last summer, when during an interview she referred to W. as "my husband" instead of "the president?" Some of us were left convinced that, metaphorically anyway, there was no difference.

This is precisely how it should not be. My best suggestion to black people and to the rest of the country is to take a sabbatical from February – regroup, think about where black people really are, detoxify by turning off the television and reading or re-reading DuBois, Baldwin, Carter G. Woodson, Malcolm X and Dick Gregory (who first radicalized the word "nigger" by confronting it in a skillful but underappreciated autobiography). Examine the vaunted bones of black history and realize that Condoleezza Rice, for all the history she has made, is a bad break that needs to heal. Maybe by this time next year our range of movement – and I mean that in as many ways as possible – will be repaired enough to get something else, and someone else, started.

Condolezza Rice is completely a political animal. She is not about African America. Or African Americans.

She's busy.

She is busy like The Judge is busy.

They have jobs to do. Careers to tend to.

That in itself is not bad. The bad is in the fact that she and he (Judge Thomas) ignore African America.

In Judge Thomas' case, he ignored the opportunity to change the shape of America in Election 2000.

That's unforgivable.

I stand in cringed anticipation of what Secretary Rice will do on the world stage to damage African America or nations of black people of Africa.


Jim Chester
Love Her or Leave Her, Condi Rice Still Does Black Women Proud
Date: Wednesday, February 09, 2005
By: Michael H. Cottman,, and Anne Gearan, Associated Press

As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continued her eight-day hopscotch across Europe and the Middle East this week, some of the focus on America's newly-appointed head diplomat goes beyond her being a Cabinet-level member and a foreign-policy specialist in the Bush administration. Indeed, even Democratic observers note, Rice is a role model for blacks and black women in particular.

"Regardless of whether or not we agree on positions that Condoleezza Rice has taken on issues and policies does not diminish the fact that she is a history-making figure," Michelle Moore, senior vice president of marketing and communications for the National Urban League, told Wednesday. "She continues to push the boundaries of opportunity for African American women. We may not agree on everything, but that's okay."

It will take some doing to dispel the current European caricature of Americans and their president as being reckless and out of touch, but, in Rice's case, it doesn't hurt to speak French and wear a superbly cut suit while trying.

She is the new face of U.S. foreign policy in more ways than one. On her first foreign trip as President Bush's chief diplomat, Rice is displaying a sophisticated style right at home on the streets and in the salons of taste-making capitals such as Rome and Paris.

San Francisco radio talk show host Farai Chideya, author of Trust: Reaching 100 Million Missing Voters, called Rice "a tough cookie." She said Rice shows that "Republicans have been skillful about pushing a slate of non-white leaders to high-levels of the administration" when Democrats have failed to do the same. "It's a remarkable turn," she said.

"No matter what her policies are, it's great to have a black woman in a position of power," Chideya told

Rice's mission on her overseas trip is to project a different image of the United States, and change the subject from frustration and anger over the Iraq war.

Rice's photograph has been on the front pages of newspapers across Europe since last week, with never a hair out of place.

There she is in The Guardian, appearing to keep her distance from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. And there she is looking chummy with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in the International Herald Tribune.

She is resolute in defending American policies, many of which she helped direct as Bush's first-term national security adviser. But she also comes with intellectual and academic bona fides, as well as years of training in classical piano.

She visited a Parisian music school Wednesday - Conservatoire Hector Berlioz - in a cultural grace note after her speech inviting debate with the French political elite on Tuesday.

Rice watched and tapped her toes to keep time as a music teacher led a group of students age seven to nine through their scales. She told the youngsters she learned to read music at age three.

"It takes a lot of work to learn to read music," she said. "You have to practice and practice and practice."

She also heard much older students preparing for a Beethoven recital and told them she is working to master a piano piece by Anton Dvorak.

Rice worked the French national motto, "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite," into her speech at the political science academy Sciences Po, although her accent was distinctly American. She charmed some in the audience, including Sciences Po economist Francois Rachline, who called her "courageous."

Wednesday morning's Le Figaro gave her a complimentary review. "With an impeccable silhouette, she put the 'la' back in the new diplomacy," the newspaper said.

Rice has remarked that the paparazzi-like coverage was jarring for the former Stanford provost, although she has had moments in the limelight, even posing for Vogue in a black evening gown with decolletage.

The intensive coverage of Rice's trip is testament both to the interest Europeans have in the plans and policies of their much larger ally across the Atlantic and to a curiosity about Rice herself.

Rice is the first black woman to become secretary of state, and her race and upbringing in the segregated South are cause for comment as much in Europe as at home.

"Just because we as a community may not agree with particular positions she has taken on foreign policy, her position as secretary of state still says to young African American women everywhere that an African American woman can ascend to a position two heartbeats from the presidency." Moore said in an interview. "Clearly, she is a role model."

Her gender and her marital status - single - also draw sexist and even crude remarks in Europe and elsewhere. An Iranian leader called Rice "emotional," and one German headline said she was "coquettish" in her news conference with Schroeder.

In an interview with NBC News in Rome, Rice shrugged off the scrutiny.

"I will do what I do," Rice said. "I'm a package. I'm who I am, and that includes being female."
I feel like I have to clarify my stance on Dr. Rice.

I am proud of her everytime I see her.

Dr. Rice is an African American whether she likes it or not. Whether we like it or not.

I don't know, however, what her intent is.

Her mission, and responsibility is NOT to represent African America. That is automatic.

She has no choice, as is the case for all of us.

What she will do leaves me apprehensive.

We should realize that a very large part of European America sees Dr. Rice as a weapon against us.

That's not new.

She knows.

We know it.

The is: What does 'Neo-Tom' mean?

Does it mean 'African American with a job?'


Jim Chester
Originally posted by EgbertSouse:
Cool! The more you black folks hate her, the more the "rest of us" embrace her! Big Grin

Go Condi! Big Grin

Thats normally how everything works. White folk was embracing Bill Cosby as recent as a few weeks ago, now only white people embracing him are those he paying to defend him in court. Clearly "the rest of us" in your message is a euphemism for white folk.

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