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Condoleezza Rice today entered the race debate that has been a simmering undercurrent of the presidential campaign when she said it had been “important” for Barack Obama to give his landmark speech on race and defended the patriotism of African Americans.
The US secretary of state also decried the “birth defect” of slavery that she said has left Americans struggling to confront racism.
“Africans and Europeans came here and founded this country together – Europeans by choice and Africans in chains,” Rice told the Washington Times. “That’s not a very pretty reality of our founding.”
Rice, the second African-American and second female in US history to lead the state department, grew up in Alabama at the height of the civil rights movement in America. One of her childhood playmates was killed in an infamous 1963 church bombing committed by white supremacists, whom Rice has called “terrorists”.
She declined to comment directly on the presidential campaign in the Times interview, saying only that it was “important” that Obama “gave it for a whole host of reasons”, but strongly defended the patriotism of African Americans. Video clips of Barack Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, shouting, “God damn America,” ignited the race row that has been dominating the Democratic presidential race. Conservatives have also accused Obama and his wife, Michelle, of displaying insufficient love for the country.
“What I would like understood as a black American is that black Americans loved and had faith in this country even when this country didn’t love and have faith in them – and that’s our legacy,” Rice said.
When Rice addressed race in the incendiary aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, she told the New York Times that the US “is about 100 percent ahead of any place else in the world in issues of race”.
In today’s interview, she did note the “enormous progress” in race relations that is reflected by her ascendance in politics.
Republican strategists often mention Rice as a possible running mate for John McCain in this year’s election, but she expressed a preference for returning to her California home after George Bush leaves office.
Rice’s success drew heated criticism in 2003 from Reverend Wright, who dubbed her “Condoskeeza” in a sermon.
“For every one Colin Powell, a millionaire, you’ve got 10m blacks who cannot read,” Wright said at the time. “For every one Condoskeeza Rice, you’ve got 1m in prison.”
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Elana Schor – The Guardian
Copyright The Guardian