The “Right” Kind of Hero

Credit: Carrie Devorah (

I was listening to the breathless coverage of Rex Tillerson’s firing, and how various people from news show talking heads to Deep State prognosticators were discussing how it would effect Iran, North Korea, Russia, and pretty much the entire globe when Mike Pompeo takes over.

With that understanding of the Secretary of State as super important, I want to talk about Condoleeza Rice for a moment.

Condoleeza Rice was born in Birmingham, Alabama on November 14th, 1954. That’s the same year that Brown v. Board of Education was decided. The Montgomery Bus Boycott started when she was one. She was the same age as the four black girls who were incinerated in the church bombing in her home town. This was Bull Connor’s and George Wallace’s Alabama.

I want that to sink in for a moment, because I think it matters when you consider that she became the third most senior individual in the United States government, and served as the face of US diplomacy all over the globe.

A black woman born in Alabama, named Condoleeza.

It’s too easy to understate how monumental of an achievement that is, partly because there’s not much understanding of what the State Department does, but also because black and brown people generally disagree with her politics. I know that I do, but I did come across an interesting quote from her speech at the 2000 Republican National Convention:

“The first Republican that I knew was my father John Rice. And he is still the Republican that I admire most. My father joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote. The Republicans did.

Yet there’s something more to the dismissal of Rice than just her politics, because she actually has a contemporary that is still held in higher esteem despite similar politics and culpability in the George W. Bush administration: Colin Powell. He’s always been a Republican, and until his speech at the UN to make the case for the Iraq War, was incredibly popular with black people. The Iraq lies damaged him too, but where it only dimmed his star, it completely snuffed out Rice’s.

Did you know that Rice is an amazing pianist? I’m going to post her performance with Yo-Yo Ma here, because you should hear it:

No one talks about Condoleeza Rice, at all. She barely gets mentioned in the national security and foreign policy podcasts I listen to. She’s not a contributor to any of the papers I read or shows I watch. There were no stirring tributes to her during Black History Month, and I doubt there will be during Women’s History month. Despite her excellence, intelligence and achievement, she committed the sin of being a black woman, and that makes it easy for everyone, even her own people, to ignore her because of this or that reason- her politics, her effectiveness, her lies, etc. News flash: they all lie. They’re all political. That’s how this system works.

This is not to say, at all, that Rice is not responsible for terrible things on the world stage. She was right there, repeating the “smoking gun/mushroom cloud” line during the run-up to the Iraq War. But Henry Kissenger was a terrible person, and so was Robert McNamara, and a hundred other evil white men whose names we are forced to remember. Why not hers too?

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