Black History Month is upon us, and it already feels like it weighs a ton. 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 about Rice has been simmering. With her tight smirk and hopelessly immutable hairdo, she's been Bush's black doppelgänger to a T, 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 or crass emotionalism to make a point.
But I'd certainly 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, 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. Call me crazy.
I've finally gotten wise. 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 neo-cons, 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 their 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.
But Condoleezza Rice shows us just how unpalatable this colour-coded Peter Principle can be. From her perch as national security adviser 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.
She gets to ignore the well-being of black people - including all those soldiers of colour 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), but she aids and abets it without a twinge of conscience.
She embodies the worst instincts of the new black middle-to-upper class elite who W.E.B. DuBois realized way back in 1950 were probably going to be the sop of white folks, not the saviour of black ones.
There are other blacks out there like Rice, those not just disinclined to racial justice but actively working against it.
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.
The NAACP had the bad sense to give Rice an achievement award a few years ago, 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.
Another thing I despise about Rice is how she's given affirmative action, already on the ropes, a bad name. Many people want to admire her because they prefer to see an educated, single-minded black woman who shouldered her way to the top.
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 has a thin record that shows she's already lied about and/or covered up dirty doings in foreign policy since before 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.
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"?
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 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.
From LA Weekly