Sunday, December 21, 2008

Condoleezza Rice: Race & Representation

Given the proximity of Black Studies to leftist and liberal causes and ideas, I'm well aware of our distance from many of the policies supported by Condoleezza Rice. Still, on the levels of race and representation, Rice inevitably comes up in the ongoing conversation Adrienne and I have been having about high profile black women in positions of governmental leadership, including Valerie Jarrett and Susan Rice.

On the representation tip, I imagine that journalists and commentators will draw on a framework they developed on Condi Rice when discussing Michelle Obama, Jarrett, and Susan Rice. They spoke of Condi's academic achievements and her rise to power, but they also often discussed her fashion choices and overall appearance.

On the race tip, I've been thinking about Condi Rice's relationship to Africa.

Today, for instance, Rice had tough words for Zimbabe president Robert Mugabe: "This is another circumstance in which the international community, most of it — including, by the way, several African states: Botswana, the leadership of Kenya and others — are saying that the regime of Robert Mugabe has got to go. You have a cholera epidemic there. You have a humanitarian disaster in terms of food. You have the goons of the Mugabe regime going around and detaining people and frightening people, terrorizing people. Again, the international community in that circumstance needs to act."

Over the last month in particular, Rice has been saying that it is "well past time" for Mugabe to leave. In the context of all the trouble going down in Zimbabwe, her critiques are understandable. And on another level, I'm wondering if race makes it possible for Rice to speak about Africa and African leaders in ways that will not be possible with Hillary Clinton? I'm also wondering how Rice's positions on Africa and various other nations will affect the extents to which folks seek out the thoughts of other black women on these kinds of issues?

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