Condoleezza Rice is the leader America needs right now to guide us through our current obsession with race.
The former secretary of state appeared on "The View" last week, where she discussed everything from Jan. 6 to parents who are demanding a bigger role in what their children learn in school.
The reaction to her comments on critical race theory, however, reveals one of the biggest problems with many of the people and outlets that claim to speak to and for black people. They have confused being for black people with being against white people.
Rice pointed out two interconnected problems with our current conversations about race. The first is white people being made to feel guilty for everything that happened in the past. The second is black people feeling disempowered because of their skin color.
She proposed an alternative that was short and clear and resonated with the millions of people who have viewed it online. She said black children should feel empowered and beautiful in their blackness and suggested that can be done without making white children feel bad for being white.
Her words struck me as principled and wise. The same cannot be said for leading black media organizations.
The Grio published an opinion by Touré Neblett that claimed Rice — who grew up in segregated Alabama — was a "foot soldier for white supremacy." He argued that white children and adults "absolutely should feel bad about the past atrocities committed by White Americans. They should feel guilty."
The Root's Michael Harriot wrote a column entitled "Maybe White People Should Feel Bad." His argument was that many racial disparities still exist in America and white people will only work to change that reality when they are confronted with those realities and made to feel uncomfortable about them.
Black News Channel put out a video on YouTube in which "Start Your Day" host Sharon Reed stated that black children are born and "inherently they're full of shame because of this country and the way it treats black people." She went on to further explain white children feeling shame because of our national history would balance them out and give them perspective and empathy.
These three responses demonstrate how social movements can devolve when the focus shifts from problems to people. We went from wanting to rid society of racism and sexism to attacking whiteness and masculinity in a very short period of time.
What makes this so harmful is the reality that no amount of making white children feel bad about the actions of people who look like them is going to improve the educational outcomes of black students. This is one reason that parents across ethnic lines are pushing back so forcefully against schools that are teaching children that black people are perpetually oppressed victims of white oppressors.
Viewing the world that way helps no one. It is easy to forecast the effect it will have on black children based on the impact it has had on this country's most influential black thinkers.
White people have become the center of the black liberal orbit. Their beliefs, behaviors, and values are treated as more than those of black people ourselves.
This is why Michael Harriot's extensive list of racial disparities included white people's views on the Civil War and the 2020 election, but not a single mention of the fact that more than 70% of black children are born to unmarried parents.
That is no anomaly.
Harriot refers to himself as a "wypipologist," a pithy way of saying he's an expert on white people. He certainly seems to have a lot of experience in the field and has published several groundbreaking articles such as "The 5 Types of 'Becky,'" "The 6 Kinds of Karens," and "10 Ways Good White People Can Help Black America (If 'Good White People' Exist)." As someone who wrote for the Root in the past, I have to admit that I am disappointed about what it has become.
I don't understand how an online magazine targeted toward black people spends so much time focused on and talking about white people. Like the Democrats who claim to hate President Trump but never stop talking about him, the Root and other black outlets have made criticizing white people a central part of their existence. This obsession is a clear sign that militant pro-blackness is often a cover for an underlying white superiority complex.
This is why black conservatives who advocate for personal agency and self-sufficiency are attacked so swiftly. Their policy recommendations about school choice and cultural prescriptions about marriage and children may be effective, but from the left's perspective, they don't do enough to dismantle racist systems of oppression.
I would like to know whether black pundits and commentators who think guilt should be passed down according to skin color are willing to apply these principles across the board. If so, they have plenty to lament, because today the black homicide rate is seven times higher than the rate for whites.
Black men make up the vast majority of murder victims in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, St. Louis, and many other large cities. For some reason, the black leadership class does not focus on these disparities with the same laser-like focus afforded to any incident they can tie to race. For black liberals, racist white cops and rude middle-aged "Karens" are worthy of national attention, but dead black schoolchildren are at best a local issue.
To make matters worse, some of these same people provide intellectual cover for a culture in hip-hop that has glorified and commodified the deaths of black men for more than 30 years. Hip-hop defenders respond to these criticisms by claiming that decades of violent lyrics and music videos don't influence behavior, but apparently one hour of jokes from Dave Chappelle will directly lead to violence against transgender people.
Condoleezza Rice grew up in the segregated South and lost a childhood friend in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. Her life is a testament to what good parents can do to equip a child for future success, even in a culture that treats them with contempt and hostility. She doesn't need a lesson in American history from people who think the country is no different in 2021 than it was in 1961. Her clarity on matters of race is exactly what this country needs right now. We cannot change the actions of the people who came before us, but we can recognize our common humanity and endeavor never to let skin color — or any other immutable trait — be used by self-serving interests to divide the country.