This morning, watching Condoleezza Rice’s Meet the Press swan song with the Muppet, I realized what a relief it’ll be to finally let go of my eight-year disdain for that woman. For the longest time, I simply hated the sister, thought she was a self-loathing true believer like an Uncle Clarence or Ward Connerly. Then, there was her head cheerleader role in the run-up to the Iraq war which simply infuriated me: “Smoking Gun! Mushroom Cloud! Siss-boom-bahh!!!”
Though mediocre at best, Antonia Felix’s biography, Condi, made me somewhat modify my opinion of Rice. I no longer thought her unqualified to be National Security Advisor, and, learning she was a student of Josef Korbel (Madeleine Albright’s father) and a disciple of Brent Scrowcroft, I realized she wasn’t a neo-con harpy but a conservative “realist.” Not a true believer—but a sell-out.
I’ve even had to give her some begrudging respect with her stint as Secretary of State. Finally, someone has corralled those wannabe cowboy, neo-con draft dodgers, and Bush’s foreign policy has made a little bit of sense lately—ignoring the lunatic rantings of Dick Cheney and John Bolton and using diplomacy (what a quaint notion) with the likes of Iran and North Korea.
Don’t get me wrong. I still loathe Madame Secretary. I can’t think of a time I’ve actually admired her nor a time that Bush et al. have filled me with anything other than contempt. But the other thing I’ve found utterly contemptuous is the press’s treatment of Rice.
There’s been speculation about her sex life and the endless scrutiny of her wardrobe. Unfortunately, those are things that all women in public life have to deal with. What has really pissed me off all these years is how the media have somehow deemed it appropriate to constantly call Dr. Condoleezza Rice, former provost of Stanford University, former National Security Advisor, and current Secretary of State, “Condi.”
Now, I realize that Rice—like so many of our oppressed black brothers and sisters—is shackled to a messed-up, made-up name. I know that “Condoleezza” is a mouthful (I’m getting carpal tunnel syndrome typing it out so damned much). However, she is the Secretary of State, fourth in line for the Presidency, and the third most powerful woman in the world (behind Oprah and Nancy Pelosi).
“Condi” is reportedly a nickname used by friends and intimates. I have never seen the woman smile coyly before the cameras, and vamp, “Call me ‘Condi.’” Yet, in newspaper after newspaper, countless telecasts, books, etc., journalists have taken this liberty.
It’s one thing when politicians like Clinton or Richardson go by “Bill” or those old Republican Revolutionaries are “Dicks” (Sweat and Armey). They choose to call themselves. Elizabeth Dole, in 1996, decided to disingenuously position herself against the “Feminazi” Hillary Clinton by calling herself “Liddy” during Bob’s Presidential run. But, as I said, Rice has never done any such thing, yet she continues to be disrespected.
Some would claim your run-of-the-mill sexism. A cutesy way to somehow belittle such a powerful woman (like the fashion critiques and sex speculation). But Madeleine Albright was never called “Maddie”; you’ll hear “Bill and Hill,” but Senator Clinton’s generally referred to by her given name (there’s even a book titled Condi vs. Hillary); Sen. Feinstein isn’t called “Di”; and Sen. Boxer ain’t “Babs.”
Secretary Rice’s white female counterparts have been given the dignity of being addressed and referred to properly. Yet, this black woman’s constantly infantilized by a nickname she doesn’t use in public. I don’t know if it’s been subconscious on the media’s and politicians’ part. That they couldn’t quite grasp or come to terms with the fact that an African-American woman had reached such heights and felt some need—no matter how juvenile—to knock her down a peg. I don’t know if it was just journalistic laziness, and folks just wanted to knock a couple of syllables off her name (didn’t they call Boutros Boutros-Ghali “Secretary-General Booty,” after all?). Personally, I’ve always suspected it to be the former. And it pissed me off. And it pissed me off that it pissed me off. Because I just don’t like the woman nor her policies. It’s just the principle of the matter. Black women deserve respect—especially one who got to where she’s gotten. They should’ve referred to her by her given name or title. “Condi” should’ve never crossed her lips.