I was not a fan of Condoleeza Rice during her time as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. I thought she was too complicit in the “weapons of mass destruction” lies told by that administration to launch a misadvised invasion of Iraq.

She later admitted she was lied to and has mellowed since her Bush years and, as a Graduate Professor at the Stanford School of Business and the new director of the Hoover Institution on Sept. 1, her ideas make sense.

As a black woman who grew up in the Jim Crow South, she knows a lot about racism.

In today’s Washington Post, in talking about the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, she writes:

Beyond justice for Floyd, systemic change is necessary to make our institutions more just. Yet all the structural reforms in the world are insufficient to remove the shadow hanging over every incident of this kind. To be black is to be forced to overcome implicit and explicit reactions to the color of your skin. It might be dismissiveness or underestimation or presumption of how you think. In some circumstances, it might be fear. We encounter these responses even among decent people who sincerely do not want to react that way. The good news is that these emotions can be overcome — and often are — with the respect that builds when people know one another as human beings — as friends, neighbors, co-workers and teammates.

Still, we simply must acknowledge that society is not color-blind and probably never will be. Progress comes when people treat one another with respect, as if we were color-blind. Unless and until we are honest that race is still an anchor around our country’s neck, that shadow will never be lifted. Our country has a birth defect: Africans and Europeans came to this country together — but one group was in chains. In time, the very Constitution that counted slaves as three-fifths of a man became a powerful tool in affording the descendants of slaves their basic rights. That work has been long and difficult, but it has made a difference. We are better than we were.

I grew up in segregated Jim Crow Alabama, where no one batted an eye if the police killed a black man. There wouldn’t have been even a footnote in the local press. So it is a source of pride for me that so many have taken to the streets — peacefully — to say that they care: that they, too, are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Yet protests will take our country only so far. The road to healing must begin with respectful but honest and deep conversations, not judgments, about who we were, who we are and who we want to become. Let us talk with, not at, each other — in our homes, schools, workplaces and places of worship. And if we are to make progress, let us vow to check the language of recrimination at the door. As united Americans, we can then turn our fears into faith, hope, compassion and action. And then we can accept and carry out our shared responsibility to build “a more perfect union.”

Rice is not alone. Here’s what Kihana Miraya Ross, professor of African-American studies at Northwestern says:

The word “racism” is everywhere. It’s used to explain all the things that cause African-Americans’ suffering and death: inadequate access to health care, food, housing and jobs, or a police bullet, baton or knee. But “racism” fails to fully capture what black people in this country are facing.

The right term is “anti-blackness.”

Anti-blackness is one way some black scholars have articulated what it means to be marked as black in an anti-black world. It’s more than just “racism against black people.” That oversimplifies and defangs it. It’s a theoretical framework that illuminates society’s inability to recognize our humanity — the disdain, disregard and disgust for our existence.

Anti-blackness describes the inability to recognize black humanity. It captures the reality that the kind of violence that saturates black life is not based on any specific thing a black person — better described as “a person who has been racialized black” — did. The violence we experience isn’t tied to any particular transgression. It’s gratuitous and unrelenting.

A lot to think about in a time when Amerca faces corrupt rule by a racist President backed by a party dominated by white supremacists in a country where anti-blackness is everywhere.

As an American with a fair amount of Seminole blood in his veins and with an Irish-Lebanese wife who considers herself “beige,” I now hesitate when “race” is requested. Given the attitudes of too-many whites in this divided nation, being “white” is an insult to my intelligence.

We are a nation of many different cultures and backgrounds. Most of us have mixtures in our genes.

I’m a mix of Seminole, Scottish, and Black Irish.

I’m not a white man.

I’m an American.

There is a difference, especially to those who think white is the only color in this land.


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