April 21, 2004

Condoleezza Rice, a Sally Hemmings for the 21st Century

OOOH! Have I been looking for a reason to write about this!

The Left Coaster: Got Something To Tell Us, Condi?

Donna's Place: Condi's fantasies

Condoleeza Rice's Embarrassing Mistake

rice.jpgPolitical Conversation: Condi's Slip
A pressing issue of dinner-party etiquette is vexing Washington, according to a story now making the D.C. rounds: How should you react when your guest, in this case national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice, makes a poignant faux pas? At a recent dinner party hosted by New York Times D.C. bureau chief Philip Taubman and his wife, Times reporter Felicity Barringer, and attended by Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Maureen Dowd, Steven Weisman, and Elisabeth Bumiller, Rice was reportedly overheard saying, "As I was telling my husb... and then stopping herself abruptly, before saying, "I was telling President Bush" Jaws dropped, but a guest says the slip by the unmarried politician, who spends weekends with the president and his wife, seemed more psychologically telling than incriminating. Nobody thinks Bush and Rice are actually an item. A National Security Council spokesman laughed and said, "No comment."

Condolezza Rice and George Bush are a more than a political partnership; they are a couple --and a good looking couple at that. Yes, I have said it. The President's wife is the most powerful negresse in the Unites States because, well, she is boinking the president. Not that she is not an intelligent woman who could not easily serve other presidents. She obviously has the credentials, expertise and know-how. Still, you have to wonder how can a woman, and a black woman at that, can get so far up in the ranks of one of the most despicably imperialist, racist and misogynist administrations since the Teddy Roosevelt years.

"But, but, what about Colin?", most people would say. Yeah, well, not for nothing did Harry Belafonte call Colin Powell a HOUSE SLAVE. In this incredibly lucid article, San Francisco Times' writer Bill Maxwell writes:

Black history is filled with characters, real and fictional, who served the "house of the master" for personal gain and power. In modern times, such service is condemned when the master is seen as the enemy of black people's principles and aspirations.

The Bush administration, as represented by the tactics of Attorney General John Ashcroft, for example, scares many non-Republican blacks. And blacks working for the administration are seen as "house niggers" who are aiding and abetting bad policies. They help give the impression that the administration is racially diverse and that blacks support these bad policies.

"What Colin Powell serves is to give the illusion that the Bush Cabinet is a diverse Cabinet, made up of people of color," Belafonte said. "In fact, none of that is true."

To Belafonte, Powell is not a person of color. He is a house slave who has been ordered to get with the program or go back to the field. In other words, Powell has burnt cork on his face. He has been bamboozled.

This is the best explanation so far as to the delusion the current administration has created with its two house negroes. After all, if Colin has the light skin to make you forget his negritude, Condolezza has the education and social "cachet" that makes her whiter than most white people.

How can I say these horrible things? I am the product of house niggers and free blacks --and being a light skinned, highly education black Puerto Rican woman, I know how the game of "passing" is played. To the chagrin of my white mother, I have called myself la negra since time immemorial. My maternal grandmother would say, "Don't say you're black. You are not black, you are trigueña." She wanted me call myself a brunette --quite an understatement even with the lightness of my skin and the occasional "beat with a blower 'til it's dead" straightness of my hair. Brunette, I am not.

f-condoleezza_bush.jpgWhat is most interesting about the Bush and Rice affair is that very few people want to talk about it. Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice carry their race as a kevlar vest against attacks from both ends of the racial spectrum. Whites pat themselves on the back for having a great example of 'integration' in the White House. Heck, to the delight of many white Republicans, they can boast that Clinton, in his 8 years of presidency, could not equal at all this kind of "racial harmony". Then there are the many blacks who'd rather look the other way and claim that any powerful black person is better than none at all.

What is important to remember in this discussion is that both Powell and Rice are part of the generation of blacks that grew up with "NO COLOREDS" signs on most public places in this country. My father was completely traumatized by the experience of coming to this country, from Puerto Rico, as a celebrated former Olympic medalist and folk nationalist hero and basically be treated like a dog. "NO PETS ALLOWED" right underneath the "NO COLOREDS ALLOWED", as my father would say. That they have compromised their politics for personal gain and power is a small price to pay, if the reward is a place on the "NO COLOREDS" counter.

That's why it is absolutely refreshing to hear Harry Belafonte go after Powell. It is almost expected from younger blacks to front the attacks. For many whites Belafonte the calypso singer / actor of his age but for many of us blacks who either lived or were born of the Civil Rights Movement, Belafonte was one of the activists, front and center. He is an elder in the CRM village, lashing out at the sell outs.

That said, he just attacked Powell on his politics. Nach about Condoleezza. Too hot a topic after all. For him, but not for David Letterman : Top Ten Questions You're Afraid To Ask Condoleezza Rice.

1. "What kind of job will you and Bush be looking for in January 2005?"

Gotta love the guy.

As to the black young'uns, the one I most like for his penchant for going for the jugular is Aaron McGruder. The man is my hero.


Aaron McGruder is probably the only high-profile black man to attack Condoleezza Rice, to the point of calling her a a mass murderer to her face and then running an unbelievably funny and biting story arc in his daily cartoon, about the need to find her a man and hopefully save the world from her lust for destruction (you can read the whole arc in A Right to Be Hostile: The Boondocks Treasury.

Then there is also this hilarious editorial cartoon from the The Black Commentator .


I find it hard to believe that the Bush/Rice relationship is not an affair. This is not new in negro América. This hemisphere, founded on the enslavement of mostly Amerindian and African peoples (there were white slaves, but that's topic of another post), has many people (like me) who come from the kind of relationship that we are witnessing in the White House.

A bit of personal history here.

riceoval.jpg My father's father was born a free slave. Interestingly enough, he had an education, had actually been a baseball player and was able to move to the US to work as an ironworker. This was not common for anybody born a free slave. On the contrary, utter poverty was assured because, the incentive for abolishing slavery in Puerto Rico (which was the last country in all America to abolish it, by the way) was purely economic. The upkeep of slaves was proving to be too costly at a time when Spain was pulling out of the Americas and was drastically cutting subsidies to plantation owners. So the strategy was to not acquire any more slaves and basically hire the newly freed labor as indentured servants ---in effect, indentured servitude was a wildly popular way of keeping generations of Spanish laborers bound to the plantations and haciendas. In Puerto Rico, you were sometimes better off being a slave than a laborer. At least food, housing, health care and basic education were mandated by law for all slaves. Not so for indentured servants.

Anyway, oral family history had it that my grandfather's side of the family had had property at one time but lost it when the Americans took over the island in 1898. I always took this with a grain of salt due to my father's notorious grand-standing. But my great-aunt, Tia Carmelita, remembered the old house and once in a while reminisced about the old times. Still, she never spoke of how her mother had a house or of who her father was. I still to this day do not know his name. [To Do: Archival Work of family History]

Enter my friend Jose Alvarez Perdido.

I went to high school with his brother and he had invited me a party at his house. Actually, he did not invite me, he coerced me into going to this party. I remember being guilt-tripped into going. Well, once I get there, he not so much introduces me but kind of throws me against this woman who was, well, totally wasted and making a fool of herself. I get him one of my WTF looks and he and his brothers start laughing and saying, "C'mon, don't be shy, introduce yourself to C. She really wants to know you." Since they knew I was not a lesbian, I was trying to figure out what the hell this was all about. So I said, "OK, Hi, my name is Liza". Now, C. was trying to be proper in that hyper-polite way that righteous drunks are, nags me about my not telling her my "nombre cristiano". To shrug her off I said a "MynameisLizaSabaterbye". And that's when the party came to a standstill and C. snapped into full sobriety.

You see, her name was C.R. SABATER. The detail here was that she was a tall, blonde woman with greenish-blue eyes and a markedly Spanish profile. And she was not from the Sabaters of Mayaguez (who were siblings of my great-grand father) but she was indeed, my 2 cousin. She was a great-grand daughter of the same Sabater as I.

Now, I knew that my side of family were the slaves of the hacienda. The story in my family went that the Sabaters sold-off the hacienda and returned to Spain (Canarias) never to return. That may have been true for the hacendado and his wife. But as CR Sabater started to relate the story of her family, we had one of those intense eye-opening experiences that come once in a lifetime. She also grew up knowing very little about the "other" side of the family. It was true that they had had slaves in her family, but they were made to believe that none carried their last name. Or, as she liked to put it, "the official story was that my great grand-father was a devoted husband and upright citizen of his community". In the same breath she added, "THAT SAID, my grand father had stories upon stories of his father's adventures in womanizing." It was due to his womanizing that several of his children remained in the island --they were not part of the official family. Still, what took my breath away was the one story she says her father would tell over and over again about how his father had fallen so madly in love with a "negra casera" (a slave housekeeper) in his youth that it almost brought him ruin.

story.bush.rice.jpg As CR Sabater told me, Carmen (my great-grandmother) was part of the staff in the house and Sabater fell madly in love with her. She was supposedly a wonder to look at; an African goddess (I have no photos of her but there are of both my grandfather and great aunt in their youth. They were incredibly good looking people). Carmen also knew how to read and write and supposedly was a wit; sharp with the tongue and a truly inquisitive mind. Sabater could not live without her and at one point even thought of her as not just his wife, but his soul mate. But it seems the family slapped him out of the romance by threatening him with banishment and ruin. Money won and the family decided to set up his negra on the outskirts of town, close enough for Sabater to have his love affair but far enough from the hacienda to avert scandal.

Years went by, the gringos won the war and economic and political upheaval for the pro-Spain hacendados was upon them. Sabater was pro-Spain and for that reason left the island. Carmen never saw him again --nor her house. The title to the property was under her lover's name and the Americans with their Jim Crowe culture, made sure to seize properties from negroes and squash any black owned businesses they deemed a threat to their rule. On my father's mother's side of the family they had always been free-blacks and they suffered severe blows to their iron works, carpentry and carriage travel businesses. Poverty came to these two highly skilled and educated black families and that's how my grandmother Ana Europa Mejil (who was an almost white black woman), ended up marrying my grand father, Nestor Sabater. They were, after all, thrown into the same social class ;)

So there you have it. I come from the illicit love affair of a powerful rancher and an educated negro "goddess".

What has changed in 100 years?

Not much it seems.

Posted in Culture, Politics, Race, Sex, War | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (3) | Technorati Cosmos


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» CONDI WAS TELLING HER HUSB... de Heli's Heaven and Hell Radio
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Say it loud, say it proud!


Comment by: Rafael at April 21, 2004 10:06 AM

What a wonderful post. Congratulations. :)



Comment by: Abe at April 22, 2004 10:12 AM

Wow! This is one for the canon, a definitive blog post. Politics, sex, rumor, race, personal history, cartoons, hyperlinks, this one hits it all. And hits it well.

Thank you.



Comment by: Adam at April 22, 2004 11:11 AM

Holy smoke, great story. They always did teach me that the personal was the political! ; . )



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