A Message to my Sistah in the Struggle

| 11 Nov 2014 | 02:11

    LAST WEEK, A truly remarkable moment occurred in American politics— Condoleezza Rice expressed real human emotion in public.

    This past Wednesday, the nation’s Secretary of State ended a press conference by saying that, “On a personal note, as an African American, I am especially proud” of the recent election of Barack Obama.

    The pride, the joy and the history of the moment were all extraordinarily displayed via her beaming smile. She radiated such genuine excitement that I did something I haven’t done for quite some time—I actually listened to the words coming out of her mouth.

    I met Condi way back in 1999, when I was a recent high school graduate attending a conference organized by the Ron Brown Scholar Program. As a total foreign policy geek, I was in awe of the woman I met—powerfully intelligent, ridiculously accomplished and thoroughly knowledgeable about the histories and aspirations of other nations. I was also in awe of the fact that I was meeting the political equivalent of a panda bear; a real live black Republican. She passionately urged her audience— all of us young, all of us black and almost all of us Democrats—to not be daunted by the struggles of people of color to gain respect within the white-dominated field of American foreign policy or for that matter, the Republican Party. On that day, I became a fan. That is, until she became Secretary of State.

    I remember when she chastised a Democratic Senator during her confirmation hearing for “impugning” her integrity. As the kids would say, LOL. I mean come on, Condi! Not only did Saddam not have any WMDs, but the document that supposedly proved he was trying to acquire some of that tasty yellow-cake uranium ended up being a complete forgery; yet for some reason, you actually expected members of the Senate to not doubt your integrity. On that day and for four years since, I have found it hard to be your fan. But then I watched last week’s press conference.

    Now don’t get it twisted: It’s gonna take a whole helluva lot more than one press briefing for me to approve your Friend Request on Facebook, but those words reminded me of the person who inspired me almost a full decade ago. And so, I thought I would return the favor and perhaps inspire you to take a leading role in shaping the political future of the GOP. For those of you still confused as to what that lil’ twink from Project Runway means when he calls something a “hot tranny mess,” I direct your attention to the Republican Party, whose presidential nominee bet the electoral success of his entire party on the wit and wisdom of Joe the Plumber and Sarah the Winker. During the campaign, Joe hypocritically attacked welfare programs as un-American when he himself had been on welfare twice while Sarah drove home her opinion that anyone living in those there gosh-darn big liberal cities is less patriotic than someone from small-town conservative America.

    Condoleezza Rice is uniquely positioned to not only counter these dangerously uninformed worldviews but also to reconnect her party to the actual concerns of the majority of Americans. I can think of few other Republicans whose compelling personal narrative combines such extensive foreign policy credentials with an ongoing high-level of respect among conservative circles. She could headline a “My Bad” tour where she and other Bush luminaries like Donald Rumsfeld visit the centers of America’s most glaring foreignpolicy blunders—Russia, Iraq, Israel and Palestine—and in doing so convey the message that Republicans are willing to learn from their mistakes. Partnering with Alberto Gonzales to strongly advocate for the closing of the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay would restore our national confidence in the U.S. justice system to honor human rights. Educating her fellow Republicans that an immigrant worker, who left impoverished lands in Central America to enter our country illegally but not immorally, would change the xenophobic image the GOP has earned.

    Stressing her own story, that of a woman whose grandfather was able to attend college in Alabama just one generation shy of slavery because he was given a scholarship, could help conservatives see that it is not socialism to use government resources to expand access to education but a wise investment in future generations.

    Now, while I am in no hurry to see a Republican-controlled White House or Congress, I do know that one day it will happen. I only hope the GOP that does eventually return to power hasn’t given up its responsibility to offer constructive solutions to real problems in favor of the fleetingly popular and willfully ignorant Joes and Sarahs among its ranks. So my message is this: Condi, sistah girl, I need to know that you’re still in the struggle, still passionately determined to make today’s Republican Party more like the one that registered your father to vote in the Jim Crow South of 1952.That would make me especially proud.