Monday, January 31, 2005

 

It's not about race - it's about competence

Jesse says what I wanted to when I read Krauthammer's column.
Follow The Blacker

Conservatives judge people by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin. Or did I get that in the wrong order?

Charles Krauthammer, a psychologist, learned man, writer of presidential speeches, and failed admitter of the aforementioned fact when it's relevant, engages in such blatant white paternalism that it surprises me he didn't rename himself "Boss" for the article.
Because of her race, her symbolism and her personal story, Rice is not a run-of-the-mill appointment but a historic one. Which makes some of the more vitriolic charges against the first African American woman ever chosen for the office once held by Thomas Jefferson particularly wounding and politically risky.

Mark Dayton of Minnesota accused her of lying in order to persuade the American people to go to war -- a charge that is not just false but that most Americans don't believe. Rice was not a generator of intelligence. She was a consumer -- of a highly defective product.
Ms. Black Rice, who is black, was blackily blacking along when...

Krauthammer might want to check history for a second. She may not have generated intelligence, but it was her job to evaluate it and promote it to make the case for the war. She may not have been the one making the defective product, but she was certainly selling it knowing that it was prone to explode during regular use. Whether or not she's black, she doesn't get excused for that.

In the Big White World of Rice Race Boosters, you can't critique black people - at least, the "successful" ones. Working-class black people, of course, are fair game, because we don't know their names and can't exploit their oh-so-touching stories. Black people with great power have done enough merely to attain and wield that power; in Krauthammer's world, her blackness is a de facto qualification. Like a small child, she gets credit simply for not trying to eat the toy.
Will it matter politically in the end? Can Democrats take the African American vote for granted? Perhaps, but it will be interesting to see whether Democrats will be willing to repeat this exercise if Bush should nominate Clarence Thomas to succeed William Rehnquist and become the country's first black chief justice. The Democrats' performance on the Rice nomination has opened precisely that possibility for the president.
Black people don't like Clarence Thomas. There is no fraternity of race that causes black folks to be blind to the incompetence of other black folks. If we're talking about the politics of race, blindly assuming that black people follow skin color without listening, reading, or observing beyond the patina of melanin saturation is the surest way to make sure no significant numbers of black people ever support you.
I don't think George W. Bush is using Condi Rice, nor do I think she is allowing herself to be used. George W. Bush undoubtedly thinks she's a great nominee to be Secretary of State - a sure sign that she's utterly incompetent, because Bush himself is utterly incompetent to make any decent appointments.

But there are plenty of conservatives who are certainly using Condi Rice, as a bludgeon to prove that they are not the racists, but that any liberal who opposes her is a racist. There is not a single liberal who ever brings up Condi Rice's race, except perhaps to respond to conservative accusations. We don't care about her race, we care about the fact that she is incompetent - and that would not change if she were a white male, a Japanese hermaphrodite, or a Martian.
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