I like Condaleeza Rice. I like her, though I don’t know her. I know about her because I grew up in a section of Dallas just up from the projects. Not that she or her family had a wiff of the projects, but I knew what it was like to be glad to be above the fray of poverty. I had friends like Condaleeza who took piano lessons, their mothers straightened their hair, and as a small rebellion, they wore little fros when Sly Stone was sporting the biggest fro we’d ever seen in North Texas.
I attended the same girls school as Melinda Gates and, in the late sixties, the nuns had etiquette instructors one week and Black Panthers the next as speakers. They were all over the map trying to be broadminded. We read “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask” in A. P. Biology and “Tess of the D’Urbervilles”, And “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” in A. P. English. We let our hair down and rolled up our uniform skirts.
This was an especially hard time for the Black girls in my class. Like me, they were only one generation out of poverty and were lagging in the rebellious “our rich parents in the suburbs don’t know nothing about us” diatribe because none of us were rich or lived in the suburbs. Most of my Black friends were richer than me, but segregation kept them out of the better neighborhoods.
When Condaleeza was a regent at Berkeley and was lambasted for being too “white” on affirmative action issues, she dismissed her critics as naive. And they were. They were at least two generations out of poverty. They were so removed that they romantcized the “hood”. They’d only visited for drug runs. We could see those neighborhoods from our back porches. It was scary. We didn’t want to live there and were still trying to climb the ladder. All of us — the Hispanics, the Blacks, the poor Whites — we dressed nice and apologized to everyone everywhere we went. We held the door hoping to get our foot in the door. Our parents were often in service positions, so we knew how the other half lived and we wanted a day off, too. It seemed the other half were always sunning at the country club where we could never belong. I was too white because I worked after school and my friend, Sharon was too dark because she was Black. We tried to fit in even though there was no chance for us. We were naive, too.
Forty years later brings us to the most influential Black woman in America being Condaleeza Rice. I am so proud of her, but nobody else is. Gloria Steinem spoke at our university recently and essentially called her George Bush’s nigger. Gloria, I might add, is not from the South and has no idea what it was like to grow up in the South, nor do the Bushes who were old money New England when they moved to West Texas which is not the South. I heard Gloria speak twenty years ago when she had just finished her feminist take on Marilyn Monroe and she was a better speaker before she became so bitter.
I don’t mind the feminist movement being hijacked by the non-married and/or gay community. I applaud all feminist points of view. There’s room for all of us ladies on the couch, I think. I’m not a label person because it helps people think in sound bites which is akin to narrow mindedness, but I hope there’s still room for heterosexual conservative Democrat mothers who are married to moderate Republican husbands on that couch. I hope there’s room for Condaleeza, too. I like her more than Gloria and I think she’s smarter, too.