Fair and Unfair Criticism of Condoleezza Rice, by Eric T. Miller and Arica Young

Condoleezza Rice is possibly the most powerful and most criticized woman on the planet, but much of this criticism is undeserved.

As our nation’s secretary of state, Dr. Rice articulates foreign policy for the world’s only remaining superpower. She is admonished in many circles for her vision of American diplomacy and her handling of issues ranging from Iraq to the Palestinian elections to the rise of China, but such criticism is fair. Every secretary of state is and should be required to answer for their administration’s foreign policies.

As a conservative black woman, however, Dr. Rice has had to endure an extra layer of deeply malicious and highly personal attacks that have escaped most other cabinet secretaries.

One recent broadside against Dr. Rice was dealt by NAACP chairman Julian Bond. Bond branded her (and her predecessor, Colin Powell) as “shields” to protect the Bush Administration from race-related criticism. Former entertainer Harry Belafonte likened her to a house slave (“more so” than General Powell) while long-time Bill Cosby critic Professor Michael Eric Dyson called her “accidentally black.” Movie director Spike Lee even implied she smoked crack!

Even white leftists such as syndicated cartoonist Ted Rall freely lambaste Dr Rice. In a cartoon, Rall challenged her racial identity, suggesting she needs to be sent to an “inner-city racial re-education camp.”

In the view of these pundits, it seems one cannot be a real black person if they are a conservative, Republican or successful outside the narrow, politically-acceptable parameters established by the self-proclaimed black and liberal leadership.

One line of vicious conjecture aimed at Dr. Rice is that she might have risen to her current position because of an intimate relationship with President Bush. In 2004, syndicated cartoonist Gary Trudeau gave voice to this ugly assertion when he portrayed President Bush referring to her as “brown sugar” in Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” comic strip. In addition, there is the oft-repeated tittle-tattle that she mistakenly referred to President Bush as her “husband” at a Washington dinner party.

Not a shred of evidence has ever been produced supporting allegations of an affair. The whole sexual insinuation is derived not from fact but from vindictiveness and destructive stereotypes about black women and their sexuality.

This persistent effort to demean Condoleezza Rice is made all the sadder and more absurd by the fact that Dr. Rice is eminently qualified to be secretary of state. She made it to the top because of her discipline, intelligence and political savvy.

Dr. Rice holds a Ph.D. in international studies and speaks Russian, French and Spanish. She served as a senior director in the National Security Council for President George H.W. Bush and as national security advisor to President George W. Bush. While not in government service, she was a professor and provost at Stanford University. Dr. Rice also served on various corporate and non-profit boards, including those of Chevron, Charles Schwab and the Rand Corporation.

Dr. Rice’s success in reaching the pinnacle of power shows just how far the country has come in redressing the ugly stains of slavery and social exclusion. While African-Americans continue to face tremendous obstacles to social and economic advancement, she has shown that people of color really can make it. Her example is tremendously valuable to young blacks with dreams of reaching the top.

This success is undoubtedly why Dr. Rice finished second in the 2006 AP-AOL Black Voices Poll to identify the most important black leader.

The Bush Administration’s foreign policy is highly controversial and the subject of constant approbations and denunciations. The secretary of state, particularly one as powerful as Dr. Rice, plays a key role in defining its day-to-day development. In assessing her successes and failures, let us – to modify the famous phase on Dr. Martin Luther King – judge Condoleezza Rice not by the color of her skin but by the conduct of her statecraft.

It is right and just to demand nothing less.

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Eric T. Miller is a Washington-based international affairs analyst and the husband of Project 21 National Advisory Council member Arica Young. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21 or the National Center for Public Policy Research.

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