In a recent interview with the right-wing newspaper, The Washington Times, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, long a black conservative, accented the importance of slavery in the history of black and white Americans, both in the past and the present. She explicitly supported Senator Barack Obama’s speaking out about race in America and implicitly critiqued her white conservative colleagues (like Michael Medved and Pat Buchanan), whose naive and ill-informed notions about the Obama speech and/or slavery have recently been analyzed here. According to the news report on Rice’s interview, she said
that the United States still has trouble dealing with race because of a national “birth defect” that denied black Americans the opportunities given to whites at the country’s very founding.
In the interview she made this comment:
Black Americans were a founding population. Africans and Europeans came here and founded this country together — Europeans by choice and Africans in chains. That’s not a very pretty reality of our founding.
It is significant that the elementary facts of this country’s racial history have to be accented still because of the great racial illiteracy among whites and many other nonblacks, and because of the propagandistic attempts to play down slavery and the rest of our racially oppressive history in many corners of this society, including the media. This news story on Rice continues:
As a result, Miss Rice told editors and reporters at The Washington Times, “descendants of slaves did not get much of a head start, and I think you continue to see some of the effects of that.”
Although putting the matter timidly and inaccurately (“not much of a head start,” indeed!), she does here flatly contradict the racist ranting of white analysts like Pat Buchanan, who recently accent a common white-supremacist view (portraying Obama as a “black hustler”) and seek to deny the current impact of the 85 percent of our history that was bloody slavery and violent legal segregation. Then Rice added another point:
That particular birth defect makes it hard for us to confront it, hard for us to talk about it, and hard for us to realize that it has continuing relevance for who we are today.
Here she continues her far-too-modest language (“us” instead of whites, for example) and neglects to mention the role of elite and other white actors in slavery, legal segregation, and contemporary racism. Of course, it is contemporary whites who are most of the “realization” problem here. It is not hard for most African Americans to talk about these issues; indeed that is the only reason there is now a renewed discussion in the white-controlled media about these racism issues right now.
It would be useful for Secretary Rice to speak more often and much more forcefully about these matters of U.S. history. She has the experience to accent it for head-in-the-sand white conservatives. Here she is contradicting her white Republican masters and probably deserves some modest credit for doing that. It is also interesting to see her supporting Senator Obama to some degree.