Is Condoleezza Rice really a black woman?
Should one dignify that question with a response?
In a column earlier this week, “My take: We’ve been Condoleezza-boozled,” (11/1) Dayo Olopade asserts that a woman who was born in Birmingham, Ala. in the 1950s, who grew up in the heart of Jim Crow, who was a playmate of Denise McNair, killed in the black 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963, somehow fails to understand the problems of race in this country. That’s simply incorrect. To claim that a woman whose father was dean of (historically black) Stillman College in Tuscaloosa and who herself served as provost of Stanford University has no knowledge of the problems of achievement facing minorities is evidence of either ignorance or willful distortion of the facts.
The message that blacks always vote Democrat, Jews always vote Democrat, gays always vote Democrat, is divisive and wrong. As a young Jew, I’m often asked the question, “How can someone like you vote for Bush?” Many of my peers here at Yale believe that voting Republican is un-Jewish, if not outright sinful. I am considered a sideshow oddity for my political beliefs. Yes, the Bush administration’s support for Israel does have something to do with my vote, but the Bush administration’s vision constitutes more than a series of disconnected panderings to interest groups. It’s more than possible to support a candidate disliked by most of your peers; indeed, it’s courageous.
No doubt it’s difficult some days for Ms. Rice to be one of the most visible faces of an administration opposed by so many African-American leaders. When she accepted her current position, I imagine she also hoped to serve as a positive example for young minority women, rather than as a target for their spleen-venting and polemics. She has chosen not to respond to such personal attacks. Perhaps she does not wish to waste time on such remarks, but I feel moved to respond to such statements, especially when aired on the editorial page of my college’s newspaper. To remain silent would give implicit consent. I am not African American, but I don’t think you have to be in order to acknowledge the extraordinary offensiveness of claiming that Condoleezza Rice is only “looking, sounding, and talking like” a minority member, and that to join a Republican administration is to somehow give up the right to one’s identity unless one is a white, Protestant, Evangelical male.
Yes, the Republican party platform is disliked by many Democrats. And many Democrats are minorities. But the fact that the Republican administration includes minority members is not proof of “substanceless pandering.” Claiming that anyone who joins the Bush administration is “anti-minority” is foul slander. One such appointee is Alberto Gonzales, who is the Bush nominee for attorney general. He’s a graduate of Harvard Law School, the Hispanic National Bar Assocation’s Latino Lawyer of the Year in 1999, former Texas Secretary of State, and current White House Counsel (which, by the way, is an official position of great prestige, responsible for advising the president on legal matters, not a “fishy” position as Ms. Olopade claims.) Should we not at least pause to listen to his opinions?
And, yes, he considers the Geneva Convention outdated, and says that it fails to deal with the problem of non-state actors. This belief is shared by many of my friends, including a gay black Democrat, a Methodist bisexual female Democrat, and a Jewish Democrat. Are they equally interest group traitors?
The idea that one’s ethnicity should be a litmus test on one’s belief is laughable and offensive. What’s the point of having a two-party system, then? Why not just conduct a census every four years?
The real issue here isn’t the purported intolerance of the Republican Party, but rather the very real intolerance demonstrated by Ms. Olopade. The Yale community should be receptive of views that break our expectations and should seek a more complex, nuanced view of political opinion than simple stereotyping. Perhaps Ms. Rice’s atypical political beliefs should be given thoughtful consideration, instead of knee-jerk dismissal.
Last time I checked, classifying people solely by the basis of their skin color is racism. Does Ms. Olopade disagree?
David Katsen is a freshman in Jonathan Edwards College.