Success isn’t always good?

Rather than go too deeply into explaining why this drivel is condescending, ignorant, and offensive, I’ll just highlight paragraphs and counter the writer’s non-arguments.

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?

If President Bush has a 2 percent approval rating among blacks, some people need to be in that 2 percent. Given that there are what, 40 to 50 million black Americans, I don’t find it hard to believe that Ms. Rice is one of the 900,000 or so who supports the President. Or is the implication that those two percent are race traitors?

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.

Or maybe she found a smarter way to deal with the situation as it existed. Dealing with what is makes more sense than whining about what is. But that’s only a recipe for success. I could be wrong.

She doesn’t deny that race makes a difference. “We all look forward to the day when this country is race-blind, but it isn’t yet,” she told reporters in Birmingham. Later she added, “The fact that our society is not colorblind is a statement of fact.”

Or maybe she found a smarter way to deal with the situation as it existed. Dealing with what is makes more sense than whining about what is. But that’s only a recipe for success. I could be wrong.

But then why are the top echelons of her State Department almost entirely white? “That’s an artifact of foreign policy,” she said in the interview. “It’s not been a very diverse profession.” In other words, there aren’t enough qualified minority candidates. I wondered how many times those words have been used as a lame excuse.

Are there qualified minority candidates being passed over for lesser-qualified white candidates? I have no idea, but this provides me no evidence to support what the author expects me to conclude, that racism is the only reason the State Department is almost entirely white.

One of the things she somehow missed was that in Titusville and other black middle-class enclaves, a guiding principle was that as you climbed, you were obliged to reach back and bring others along. Rice has been a foreign policy heavyweight for nearly two decades; she spent four years in the White House as the president’s national security adviser. In the interview, she mentioned just one black professional she has brought with her from the National Security Council to State.

That speaks for itself.

As we were flying to Alabama, Rice said an interesting thing. She was talking about the history of the civil rights movement, and she said, “If you read Frederick Douglass, he was not petitioning from outside of the institutions but rather demanding that the institutions live up to what they said they were. If you read Martin Luther King, he was not petitioning from outside, he was petitioning from inside the principles and the institutions, and challenging America to be what America said that it was.”

The civil rights movement came from the inside? I always thought the Edmund Pettus Bridge was outside.

I know very few black Americans who think of themselves fully as insiders in this society. No matter how high we rise, there’s always that reality that Rice acknowledges: The society isn’t colorblind, not yet. It’s not always in the front of your mind, but it’s there. We talk about it, we overcome it, but it’s there.

Secretary Rice implies that she always considered herself “inside”. She expected to be considered “inside” and behaved accordingly. Seeing where she is today, the institutions seem to recognize what she believed. Is it possible the institutions would recognize her feeling of being “outside”, if that’s what she’d chosen to believe?

Consider what Sec. Rice said (“The fact that our society is not colorblind is a statement of fact.”) and what the writer said (“The society isn’t colorblind, not yet.”). Two different worldviews exist in those similar but quite distinct statements. Which is more cynical and self-perpetuating?

2 thoughts on “Success isn’t always good?”

  1. There are very few African Americans that are not proud of Ms. Rice’s success. There are also very few African Americans that can understand how she stands beside a President who has demonstrated such repulse for African Americans. Eugene Robinson asked the question that so many “Black” insiders ponder.

  2. I don’t doubt that most African-Americans are proud, but Mr. Robinson insinuates that Secretary Rice succeeded in the wrong place. That’s ridiculous. His opening paragraph should’ve been enough to know that his opinion piece was nonsense, with his reliance on the useless two percent argument.
    However, I was willing to understand his point, which is why I read the rest. I finished unconvinced of any of his flimsy arguments. It’s fine to make the statement that she shouldn’t stand beside President Bush because he’s “demonstrated such repulse for African Americans.” I’m open to the idea, convince me. That’s done with facts. Mr. Robinson provided no such support. He stopped at saying that Secretary Rice doesn’t feel the racism and societal bias. He said that she ignored the obligation of her community in Alabama to pull others up with her. Pulling others up is fine, but unless he’s suggesting blatant cronyism, with merit mattering little, he needs to offer more evidence. He advocated little more than embrace the notion that racism exists, so African-Americans can’t get a fair shake from society. Yet, everything he wrote about Secretary Rice suggests that she rose above it. She acknowledged it while accepting that it didn’t have to be a roadblock. I still fail to see a flaw in her logic.
    But again, I’m open to convincing. For what it’s worth, I don’t support the president, either. I didn’t vote for him and feel moderately vindicated in that decision. But that’s an intellectual response. Secretary Rice obviously arrived at a different intellectual conclusion. Convince me that her standing beside the president is wrong because she failed in her thinking. It takes more than “because she’s African-American.” That’s a superficial reason. Anyone stuck on that as a justification isn’t trying.
    As for why you put “Black” in quotes, I admit I do not understand the purpose. I suspect that you’re commenting on my use of the word instead of “African-American”, which you used in the first two sentences. If not, I confess to a continuing lack of cognition. If so, I suggest you read Mr. Robinson’s words again.

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