This is a message I sent to a columnist for The Chicago Tribune in 2004, responding to a particularly racist column she had written in that paper.
Dear Ms. Trice,
As a supporter and admirer of both Secretary Powell and Ms. Rice (as well as a Republican who has voted twice for President Bush), I read with dismay your Monday column in which you attempted to explain the African-American community’s lack of enthusiasm over the selection of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State.
Your column consists of twenty-one paragraphs, of which the first twenty address things other than your case against Ms. Rice. Only in the twenty-first and final paragraph do you get to your criticism of Ms. Rice, and it is both narrow and oblique: you do not consider Ms. Rice to be a role model for the African-American community because she is one of those who “became all they wanted to be but forgot where they came from . . .” In other words, not only is she incorrect in her political philosophy, but she is selfish or hypocritical (or at best, forgetful).
Your authority for “where she came from” appears to be Mr. Powell, whom you describe as a supporter of “gun control, abortion rights, affirmative action, and separation of church and state.” This appears to mean you take Ms. Rice to be an opponent of each of those policies, and I wonder how you arrived at that notion. Clearly, none of these policies has anything to do with either Ms. Rice’s current position as National Security Advisor or her proposed new position as Secretary of State, and I am not aware that she has taken a published position as to any of them other than affirmative action, which she first addressed as Provost at Stanford University.
Further, while it is clear that African Americans (alone among major racial and religious and ethnic groups) have voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party in recent elections, I think it is quite a stretch to say that gun control, abortion, and religion are the key issues on which African Americans are at odds with the policies of the Republican Party. Many political commentators have observed that many African Americans are relatively conservative when it comes to one or more of those issues. No, I think it is clear that the key point of differentiation is economics, and of the four issues you have mentioned, only affirmative action is meaningfully related to economics.
There is no denying that the African-American community prefers the Democratic Party’s approach to economic issues. Democrats are in favor of the “helping hand” approach to the underprivileged, whether that means affirmative action plans, steeply progressive taxation, preferred admissions to colleges, or various forms of health and human-services benefits. Republicans are famous (and notorious, in Democratic circles) for believing that these programs, regardless of being well-intended, can only be paid for by an economic engine that is allowed and encouraged to become strong enough to generate the tax revenues to pay for that “helping hand,” and many Democrats vilify the Republicans for being more concerned with building the engine than they are with sharing its results with the less fortunate.
Affirmative action is a special case: many Republicans believe that certain forms of it (such as the universities’ preferred-admissions programs) are counter-productive, because their ultimate effect is to permanently undermine the credibility of the very credential the programs are designed to create – for example, an Ivy League degree, in the case of minorities admitted in recent years, is no longer viewed as proof of the highest level of ability and effort, and thus has lost value even for those African Americans who have actually manifested such ability and effort.
Ms. Trice, I am not going to try to convert you into a Republican; I am sure Mr. Powell and Ms. Rice, by their mere achievements, would have a far better chance of accomplishing that than I. I am disturbed, however, by the fact that you are not willing to treat the Republican point of view as being at least a respectable one, and I am saddened that you choose to treat any black Republican (even one who has worked as hard and achieved as much as Ms. Rice) as a person who “forgot where they came from.” My understanding is that the place from which Ms. Rice came was a solid, religious, two-parent home where money was scarce but love, respect, and middle-class values were not, and that she was made very much aware of the evils of racial discrimination and segregation. I seriously doubt that Ms. Rice has strayed very far at all from “where she came from.” If you wish to challenge her views, whether they be on foreign policy (her area of expertise) or on abortion, I encourage you to do so and I hope you will spend more than just one cryptic paragraph in the effort. But I think it is most unfair to challenge her loyalty to her roots and her race.
[published at mecmoss.com 10 Feb 2012]