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Condoleezza Rice on Civil Rights

Secretary of State


Same-sex civil unions, but not marriage

On the AmericansElect.org social issues question, Dr. Rice chose 'B' from the list below, with a relative weighting of 3%:
Source: AmericansElect email questionnaire with Condi Rice's staff , Feb 13, 2012

Scars of slavery include black preoccupation with skin color

You will notice that I have described the skin color of each of my relatives. Unfortunately, it mattered. One of the scars of slavery was a deep preoccupation with skin color in the black community. The lighter your skin, the better off you were. This bias extended to other facial features: thin and "Caucasian" was preferred to thick and "Negroid," just as straight hair was "good" compared to kinky hair, which was "bad." The repercussions were significant in my parents' time, when no self-respecting black school would select a dark-skinned homecoming queen.

By the time I came along, skin color and other physical features were less important, though not irrelevant.

One can imagine, though, what it was like for my very dark-skinned grandfather in the first half of the 20th century. He was given the worst land to work and not much encouragement from his father.

Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p. 18 , Jan 10, 2012

On racist IQ theory: "I'm better in white culture than you"

In my freshman Introduction to Government course, the professor had given a lecture on theories of racial superiority professed by social scientists such as William Shockley, who posited that blacks had lower IQs because of nature, not nurture. The professor had given the lecture under the guise of simply introducing us to the literature, but I sensed that he bought into some of the theory. I was the youngest person in the class, but I challenged him. "I speak French and play Bach. I'm better in your culture than you are," I said. "That shows that these things can be taught!" He was angry and said the next day that I had tried to silence him. The professor asked to see me and then went on to compound the problem by drawing a little graph charting black IQs along the bottom, with those of whites above them. "But sometimes there are people like you," he said. He then showed my IQ line positioned above both, saying that I was special. Clearly, he didn't get the point.
Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p.157-158 , Jan 10, 2012

1985: First woman on grounds of Japan's military academy

I accepted a 3-week visiting professorship at the National Defense Academy of Japan, in Yokosuka. I had never been to Japan, and it was a somewhat hard place to be. The academy, their West Point, had never had a woman teach there. In fact, I don't think they had ever had a woman on the school grounds before I came. One clue was the absence of a ladies' room. The school solved the problem by making one of the men's rooms off-limits to everyone else but me. Later I would be pleased to learn that the academy admitted its first female cadet in 1992.

All military academies are hierarchical, but in Japan this is exacerbated by cultural customs. The language, which is hierarchical, made it difficult to find an appropriate greeting in a case where a female of higher status addresses a male of lower standing. When one of my host professors invited me to his home for dinner and his wife served us but ate in the kitchen, I was just appalled. In general, I found the whole experience stultifying.

Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p.224-225 , Jan 10, 2012

Supports civil unions but not gay marriage

On same-sex marriage she said that while she believes marriage is between a man and a woman, "I don't ever want anybody to be denied rights within our country." She suggested that civil unions could be a "way for people to express their desire to live together," and said that "the country, if we can keep the volume down, will come to good answers."
Source: David Gibson on Politics Daily on Huffington Post , Dec 28, 2010

Founding Fathers said "We the People," but didn't mean me

Throughout the South, when I was growing up, Condi says, "the organized cruelty of segregation was embodied in custom, encompassed in law, and enforced through brutality. Nevertheless, our Founding Fathers had dug the well of democracy deep in America. Our Founders knew that human beings are imperfect, so they enshrined certain natural rights in our democratic institutions. The only problem of course, was that when the Founding Fathers said, 'We the people,' they didn't mean me.

"Nonetheless, the ideal of justice at the heart of this regime was the mirror that black Americans held in the face of their oppressors. This reflected a stark choice for our entire country: Either the principles of our nation's Creed were true for everyone--or they were true for no one. If there truths were indeed self-evident--if all men really were created equal--then it was America that had to change, not American's democratic ideals.

Source: The Faith of Condoleezza Rice, by Leslie Montgomery, p. 61 , Mar 7, 2007

Furious at theories that blacks have genetically lower IQ

One morning as 16-year-old Condi sat in a lecture hall at the University of Denver, 1 of 3 blacks out of approximately 250 students, something occurred that challenged the very essence of who she was as an individual. A professor began approvingly citing William Shockley. He concluded that African-Americans were inherently less intelligent than Caucasians.

As the professor [concluded that] blacks had lower IQ's because of genetics, Condi became more furious. "I raised my hand and said, 'You really should not be presenting this as fact because there's plenty of evidence to the contrary.'" The professor disagreed with her, saying that evidence to the contrary didn't exist. "That's when I said. 'Let me explain to you: I speak French, I play Bach, I'm better in your culture than you are. So obviously this can be taught. It doesn't have anything to do with whether you are or are not black.'"

Her confrontation silenced the professor on the topic, and she even aced the class.

Source: The Faith of Condoleezza Rice, by Leslie Montgomery, p. 94-5 , Mar 7, 2007

Urges respect & sensitivity in same-sex marriage debate

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged respect and sensitivity in the debate over same-sex marriage. When asked her own views on the subject, however, she ducked the question.

“This is an issue that can be debated and can be discussed in our country with respect for every human being,” Rice told the News & Record of Greensboro, N.C. “When we get into difficult debates about social policy, we get into difficult debates that touch people’s lives. The only thing that I ask is that Americans do it with a kind of sensitivity that real individuals and real human beings are involved here.“

In a major defeat for President Bush and other Republicans who hope the issue will rally GOP voters for the November elections, the Senate rejected by a wide margin last week a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Asked for her opinion on the amendment, Rice told the paper, ”This is not my area of expertise or, frankly, my area of concentration at this point.“

Source: Advocate.com GLBT news site , Jun 16, 2006

Advocates respect for all when discussing gay marriage

Condoleezza Rice urged respect in the debate over gay marriage, but ducked a question about her own views. "This is an issue that can be debated and can be discussed in our country with respect for every human being. When we get into difficult debates about social policy, we get into difficult debates that touch people's lives, the only thing that I ask is that Americans do it with a kind of sensitivity that real individuals and real human beings are involved here."
Source: Associated Press, "Rice Urges Respect" , Jun 15, 2006

Message of her candidacy: no ceiling for blacks

Wouldn’t a Condoleezza Rice candidacy change America? The very fact that an African American woman could actually become president would send a powerful message to every minority child that there is no more ceiling, no more limit for black Americans in elective politics.

The stain that began to spread through our land when the first slaves landed at Jamestown, VA, would be erased. Condi’s election would be the last battle of the Civil War, the last civil rights demonstration, the end of a saga that has haunted us since our nation was born. In a land where the signs once read “No Irish need apply,” wasn’t the election of John F. Kennedy the death knell of anti-Catholic bigotry?

If the civil rights movement of the 1960s was animated by the haunting lyrics and melody of the song “We Shall Overcome,” electing Rice to the White House would send a very different message: “We have overcome.” And that, apart from Condi’s obvious merits as a possible president, might just be worth voting for.

Source: Condi vs. Hillary, by Dick Morris, p. 20&181 , Oct 11, 2005


Condoleezza Rice on 1960s Segregation

Participated in 1962 Alabama anti-segregation boycott

For me, the first shock of recognition was learning of the boycott of the downtown stores in 1962. The action was organized to bring pressure on the stores to hire black clerks and to take down racial signage. That Easter everyone made sure to wear old clothes just to demonstrate that they were supporting the campaign.

But it was Christmas when I realized that something truly serious was under way. I was terribly disappointed [because the boycott precluded toys] but old enough to understand the larger issues at stake.

Clearly, the boycott was succeeding. Sales declined 11% that year, leading the city of Birmingham to threaten to cut off a surplus food program servicing about 19,000 poor black families if the boycott didn't stop. The churches responded by conducting a food drive.

Though they supported the boycott, my parents didn't want to go without toys that Christmas, so they arranged for Aunt Gee to bring them from her home in Norfolk, Virginia.

Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p. 89-90 , Jan 10, 2012

First black in Birmingham-Southern conservatory of music

I was almost 10 and had begun to tire of the piano. Mother and Daddy decided that I needed a change to reinvigorate my interest. As it happened, Birmingham Southern College had a very fine conservatory of music, but to date its student body had been exclusively white. My father called and I was granted an audition.

On the day of the audition I admitted to my parents that I was nervous. I didn't want to embarrass anyone. I'd be the first black student in the Birmingham-Southern program. I felt that I was carrying the weight of needing to be twice as good. They reassured me that I was indeed twice as good. Looking back, it is striking that they didn't say, "You don't have to be twice as good."

The audition went very well, and I was admitted. I was soon reenergized in my pursuit of a career as a concert pianist. Years later, my father said that he was really glad that he and my mother took the chance of letting me try to break this color barrier.

Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p.107-108 , Jan 10, 2012

No marches as child; but one-on-one mentoring instead

Although Birmingham raged out of control with racism and demonstrations against black Americans during Condi's formative years, her parents lived on the quiet side of the Civil Rights Movement. John was not an active protestor--he did not participate in marches and demonstrations as did his friends. Instead he chose to fight prejudice by empowering and mentoring young African-Americans through one-on-one mentoring and relationships--and Condi was his primary protege.
Source: The Faith of Condoleezza Rice, by Leslie Montgomery, p. , Mar 7, 2007

Tested Civil Rights Act by eating at all-white restaurant

The [post-segregation] changes occurred slowly in other establishments. Only days after the Civil Rights Act was passed, the Rices decided to blatantly test the waters by going to eat at an all-white restaurant. "The people there stopped eating for a couple of minutes," remembers Condi. No one said anything, but then the crowed stopped staring and began eating again. "A few weeks later we went through a drive-in," Condi says "and when we drove away I bit into my hamburger--and it was all onions."
Source: The Faith of Condoleezza Rice, by Leslie Montgomery, p. , Mar 7, 2007

Childhood in the heat of the Civil Rights struggle

The same year Condi was born, Eugene "Bull" Conner became a candidate for the 2nd time for governor of Alabama. Connor was known as a hard-line, outspoken Southern racist. He gained lasting infamy when he resorted to using water hoses and police dogs against protestors.

"I was in the heat of political struggle all through my childhood," Condi shares. "But I thought of the Civil Rights Movement as part of a struggle to give all Americans the opportunity to pursue whatever interests them most, where they can best use their talents. Because I viewed the struggle of black America as meaning the right of each of us to do what we are best equipped to do, it did not seem to me to be disjunction for me to follow my own particular course. Rather the reverse--I was exercising a fundamental right of Americans."

Source: The Faith of Condoleezza Rice, by Leslie Montgomery, p. 36-7 , Mar 7, 2007

I grew up in Birmingham, most segregated city in America

Burning crosses & bombs permeated Birmingham. In response, blacks held marches, sit-ins, and protests, many of which were televised and were viewed by Condi with her parents. While her father would not participate in the blatant defiance against racism, he did take his daughter to watch some of the protests.

Her parents couldn't completely shield Condi from the prejudice that she'd see on the news as she watched beating after beating of blacks by police who were paid in part by the tax dollars of blacks to protect them. And although her parents and others in her inner circle of family & friends were extraordinary role models who encouraged her to be all she could be, others expected little or nothing from her.

"I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, a place that was once described, with no exaggeration, as the most thoroughly segregated city in the country. I know what it means to hold dreams and aspirations when half your neighbors think of you as incapable of, or uninterested in, anything higher."

Source: The Faith of Condoleezza Rice, by Leslie Montgomery, p. 40-2 , Mar 7, 2007

I remember "Bombingham", city of Bull Connor and the KKK

Despite the fact that seldom a day went by during Condi's formative years when blacks weren't haunted by rebel yells in the daylight hours, terrorized by night riders and burning crosses, and accused of burning their own homes, Condi says her childhood was good. "Despite my fond memories of Birmingham as a place where I was, as a child, secure, I also remember a place called 'Bombingham'--where I witnessed the denial of democracy in America for so many years. It was, after all, the city of Bull Connor and the KKK." Bombs were going off regularly. Between 1940 and 1960 nearly 50 unresolved, racially directed bombings occurred in Birmingham.
Source: The Faith of Condoleezza Rice, by Leslie Montgomery, p. 58 , Mar 7, 2007

Missed 31 days of school in 1963 due to Birmingham bombings

Parents concerned for their children's lives kept them home from school, and many parents criticized those who were protesting because of the danger that put them and their families in. During the 1963 demonstrations, Condi says, she missed 31 days of school.

"I am so grateful for my parents for helping me through that period," says Condi. "They explained to me carefully what was going on, and they did so without any bitterness." Bombs were continually going off in Birmingham.

Remembering these days, Condi refers to these attacks on blacks as "homegrown terrorism." It was indeed a time of terror for Condi, who began to see just how far racist whites would go to destroy the black race.

Source: The Faith of Condoleezza Rice, by Leslie Montgomery, p. 67-8 , Mar 7, 2007


Condoleezza Rice on Affirmative Action

I would rather be ignored than patronized

When I was asked about my decision to become a Republican, I first explained quite honestly that the choice reflected my disgust with Jimmy Carter's foreign policy and my attraction to Ronald Reagan's worldview. But, pressed about the domestic agenda of the 2 parties, I gave an answer that came directly from my experience with the many forms racism can take. "I would rather be ignored than patronized," I said, pointing to the tendency of the Democratic Party to talk about "women, minorities, and the poor." I hated identity politics and the self-satisfied people who assumed that they were free of prejudice when, in fact, they too could not see beyond color to the individual.

I'd grown up in a family that believed there was no room for being a victim or depending on "the white man" to take care of you. Despite the gross inequities my ancestors faced, there HAS been progress, and today race no longer determines how far one can go. That said, America is not color-blind and likely never will be.

Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p,158-159 , Jan 10, 2012

Fierce defender of affirmative action

Stanford's Political Science Department wanted to hire me. I got a call from Stanford's affirmative action officer. If a department was willing to hire a minority professor, the university would provide half the money for the position. Even with that incentive, departments were reluctant. But this time the department had come to her. "How did this happen?" she asked.

Years later, after having been on the other side of faculty hiring, especially as the provost of Stanford, I understood exactly what had happened. Stanford, in an effort to diversify its faculty, had made it possible to hire minorities without going through the normal processes. The Department of Political Science saw a young, black, female Soviet specialist and decided to make an affirmative action hire.

Contrary to what has sometimes been written about me, I was and still am a fierce defender of affirmative action of this kind. Why shouldn't universities use every means necessary to diversify their faculty?

Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p.199-200 , Jan 10, 2012

Supporter of affirmative action, if done in the right way

Issues of affirmative action are tricky in a university, whether in admissions, in faculty hiring and tenure, or in selecting a football coach. There is probably no single issue on which I've felt more misunderstood. For instance, I have been called an opponent of affirmative action. In fact, I'm a supporter of affirmative action--if done in what I consider to be the right way. No one can doubt that years of racial prejudice produced underrepresentation of minorities and women in all aspects of American life. That is not acceptable in America, which is the world's greatest multi-ethnic democracy.

Yet the question of how to remedy that situation is a delicate one. I've always believed that there are plenty of qualified minorities for these roles. But the processes of selection, the networks through which people are identified, can very easily be insular and produce the same outcomes over and over. The answer lies in looking outside established networks and patterns of hiring.

Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p.275-276 , Jan 10, 2012

Affirmative action: look for prospects in minority places

In student admissions it is necessary to take race into account. I don't know why, but minorities continue to score lower on standardized tests. Even after we adjust for socioeconomic status, this disparity holds. But as my own story about the results of my PSAT in high school shows, these tests are not fully predictive of a student's success or failure. Over the years I have had students with perfect records at entry fail and students who were thought to have been marginal succeed. Yet the idea that minority students are getting a break at the expense of white students is one of the most toxic issues of our time.

The key to affirmative action, I believe, is not to lower standards but to look for good prospects where you would not ordinarily find them.

Source: My Extraordinary Family, by Condi Rice, p.277 , Jan 10, 2012

Appointed State Department's first chief diversity officer

I was somewhat taken aback by the racial divide in Brazil. Brazilians had always protested that they had no race problem. Yet it seemed to me that the field hands were Africans (dark-skinned), the service personnel were mulatto (biracial), and the government officials were European/Portuguese. Brazil was the country most similar to the US in its ethnic makeup, but it seemed to have experienced little of the civil rights revolution that had changed the face of American politics and society.

Latin American leaders were comfortable talking to me about their struggles with racial equality and efforts at affirmative action, perhaps because I was honest with them about America's own struggles. In fact, as I often said, the US State Department was no model of racial diversity. "I can go all day and not see another person who looked like me." I appointed the department's first chief diversity officer, and championed programs to interest minorities in Foreign Service careers.

Source: No Higher Honor, by Condoleezza Rice, p.659 , Nov 1, 2011

Supports college affirmative action, as beneficiary herself

Rice was under pressure to increase the number of tenured female and minority faculty. Rather than bow to the pressures, Rice charted a centrist course. Admitting she was a product of affirmative action, Rice endorsed using racial and gender preferences in hiring faculty. “I am myself a beneficiary of a Stanford strategy that took affirmative action seriously, that took a risk in taking a young Ph.D. from the University of Denver.”

Yet, as much as she backed affirmative action in hiring faculty, she strongly opposed it in granting tenure. She consistently refused to give into demands that she favor minority and women professors in granting tenure.

Rice has broken with President Bush to endorse race-based preferences in college admissions. Rice said, “ I believe that while race-neutral means are preferable, it is appropriate to use race as one factor among others in achieving a diverse student body.”

Source: Condi vs. Hillary, by Dick Morris, p.115-118&179 , Oct 11, 2005

Race-neutral preferable, but use race factors until achieved

When the President decided to submit an amicus brief, he asked for my view on how diversity can be best achieved on university campuses. I offered my view, drawing on my experience in academia and as provost of a major university.

I agree with the President’s position, which emphasizes the need for diversity and recognizes the continued legacy of racial prejudice, and the need to fight it. The President challenged universities to develop ways to diversify their populations fully.

I believe that while race neutral means are preferable, it is appropriate to use race as one factor among others in achieving a diverse student body.

It is important to take race into consideration if you must, if race-neutral means do not work.

Source: White House statement, on www.4condi.com, “Issues” , Jan 1, 2003

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