Condoleezza Rice is a bright star in space that contains few African-Americans and even fewer African-American women.
Normally, this would be a cause for great celebration in the black community.
She is the first black woman and only the second woman ever to serve as our nation’s Secretary of State, but her phenomenal rise has nonetheless been met with derision from white liberals and many in the black community. Why? Quite simply, it is because Condoleezza Rice is a conservative black serving in a Republican administration.
Fifty years ago, the story would have been different. United under the same cause - civil rights - African-Americans stood together against racial oppression to built their own communities. Blacks - by law and choice - gave their business to black doctors and lawyers, shopped at black stores and sent their children to be educated by black teachers. And they roundly celebrated the achievement of other blacks.
Someone of Secretary Rice’s credentials would truly be a hero to the blacks of that bygone era.
At the age of three, Condoleezza Rice learned to play the piano and was soon playing Bach and Beethoven. After a successful professional career in both the business and educational sectors, she joined President George W. Bush’s staff in 2000 as his national security advisor before becoming Secretary of State. As an expert on Russia and master of several languages, she is well-suited for the job.
But all this is of little consequence to some simply because Secretary Rice is and works for a Republican.
Yet Secretary Rice remains dignified and calm in the face of blatantly racist attacks. In 2004, for example, liberal cartoonist Ted Rall used the term “house nigga” to describe her. What makes things worse is that black politicians or our so-called community leaders did not come to her defense or demand an apology from Rall.
Such treatment is clearly uncalled for. Our community ought to be ashamed for failing to defend her. Black liberals who accuse her of being a race traitor betray their envy toward a woman they should be proud of, regardless of her political ideology.
This indicates that there really is no African-American unity today. It has been replaced with what I call the “crab theory.” If you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket, they will fight to get out of the bucket - even if it involves climbing on top of another crab and knocking it down. There’s no thought given to the teamwork of the past.
It seems our so-called black leaders want people to think and act a certain way. “Black” becomes a code word used to describe a certain mindset. If you don’t have it, you’re open to attack. Black politicians and activists, for instance, don’t usually defend black conservatives against racist remarks.
Secretary Rice seems to have accepted black rejection as simply the way things are and that things are not likely to change. Despite the antipathy, she still stands as a role model for young African-Americans. She is proof-positive that blacks can and do achieve through hard work and perseverance, and that we all have the potential to rise in a career that fulfills our passion.
Condoleezza Rice is truly remarkable, but she is unappreciated by many African-Americans. We need to reconsider who is and isn’t worthy of our appreciation and learn to celebrate all of our achievements - no matter which political party to which a person belongs.
Carletta Skinner is a member of the National Advisory Council of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to Project21@nationalcenter.org.