|Jan 17, 2013 - Issue 500|
Make Us Do Right
|By Jill M. Humphries, PhD
Bill Fletcher, Jr.
“She’s not qualified.
Anyone who goes on national television and in defiance of the facts, five days
later - We’re all responsible for what we say and what we do. I’m responsible
to my voters. She’s responsible to the Senate of the
(John McCain, CBS “This Morning”)
Since the above quote,
Susan Rice has removed her name from consideration to become the next Secretary
of State; however, we feel discussing this issue within the Black community
remains relevant to understanding foreign policy establishment politics. It is
no surprise that African Americans interpreted the GOP’s opposition to Dr.
Susan Rice’s possible nomination to be the next Secretary of State and in
particular Senator McCain’s rhetorical comments about her to be both racist and
sexist. Indeed they are. After all Jim Crow segregation, the model for
We contend that African Americans need to continue to challenge race and gender discrimination within US institutions. However, we question the recent attempts by many Black political female and male leaders and well-meaning citizens to rally support on behalf of Dr. Susan Rice’s nomination for Secretary of State because of the racist and sexist ways she has been criticized, without also calling for a critical review of her foreign policy record particularly in terms of the policies of the USA towards countries around the world, including those with 100’s of millions of Black people. We do not believe that our Black political leadership intentionally used the historical memory of racism and sexism for us to uncritically support Dr. Rice. Unlike the GOP, who also used racism and sexism to attack Dr. Rice, both groups rely on a racial and gender assumptive logic but for different purposes.
consequence is that both GOP critics and many Rice supporters rely on an
uninformed Black populace to either “support” someone/something for superficial
reasons or to not oppose someone/something
even when it would be in the interests of the African American community and
global Diaspora. As a consequence this essay is an attempt to contribute to the
conversation by situating this controversy in a larger context about elite
networks in the emerging multicultural foreign
policy establishment of the
First, this essay is
not about Dr. Rice’s ability or qualifications in order to assume the position
of Secretary of State or the attacks on her pedigree. As the child of Black
Washingtonian professionals, a high school valedictorian, a Stanford and
Elite Social Networks and Foreign Policy Establishment Institutions
Susan Rice is one example of the new African American foreign policy civil servant formation that makes up the emerging multicultural foreign policy establishment. Despite the decline in institutional barriers for African American advancement in the foreign policy arena it is quite uncommon for Blacks to access the highest levels of power in US institutions without support and access of elite white social actors, networks, and institutions. This raises a set of interesting questions not just about Dr. Rice but about who has access to elite social networks for career advancement; the need to demonstrate ideological alignment; how elite social networks undermine democratic principles of meritocracy; and accountability to civil society actors.
The Korbel-Albright Family Network. It is no surprise
that both Condoleezza and Susan Rice speak about their family ties with the
Korbel-Albright family. In the case of Condoleezza Rice, Josef Korbel, Madeleine
Albright’s father and a former
So what is the
The most legitimate
criticisms come from Black progressive voices and African social justice
advocates who have consistently critiqued
The Black Foreign Policy Consensus. The more important question for the Black community is whether the Civil Rights Movement was only about abolishing Jim Crow in order to provide equal opportunity and access for Black Americans to behave in the same manner as their white counterparts in abusing their relationship with the citizenry and global community? Or more importantly, was it to articulate and advocate for an alternative collective vision based on human rights, anti-racism, political and civil rights, democracy, anti-colonialism, and social and economic justice?
We believe that the current
Black foreign policy establishment represents a disjuncture with this history.
Historically, many African American Department of State and Foreign Service officers
who came of age under the oppressive Jim Crow era had organic connections to
the Black community and saw themselves as an extension of the civil rights
movement championing equal rights and justice in the
a result of the racist and sexist manner in which the debate over the possible
appointment of Susan Rice as Secretary of State was handled, it became very
difficult to hold a sober exchange on the policy issues at stake. Rather than
an examination of Susan Rice-the-person, we needed to look at her candidacy in
the context of the objectives of US foreign policy. While Susan Rice is
eminently qualified for the position, we in Black America needed to be
challenging her policy prescriptions and orientations that, in point of fact,
put her at odds with the history of the Black Freedom Movement and its
objectives, both domestic and international. When we are silent about such
matters, we can objectively become complicit in the crimes that are committed
around the world in our name, regardless of our intentions.
For more about this topic, read Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice Foreign
Policy, Race, and the New American Century by Clarence Lusane.
BlackCommentator.com Guest Commentator, Jill M. Humphries, is an educator and researcher on Africana populations and has served as an expert witness on African political asylum sexual minority cases. Click here to contact Ms. Humphries.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member and Columnist, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfricaForum, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us” - And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. He is also the co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice, which examines the crisis of organized labor in the