Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

Condoleezza Rice to George W. Bush During Katrina: “We Clearly Have a Race Problem”

According to her soon-to-be released memoir, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told President George W. Bush that America “had a race problem” during Hurricane Katrina.

The Huffington Post reports that in the book, No Higher Honor Rice expresses regret for shopping at the upscale Ferragamo shoe store in New York City during the August, 2005 disaster that killed more than 1,800 people, most of them poor and black. Rice writes that when she returned to her hotel room after shoe shopping:

The airwaves were filled with devastating pictures from New Orleans. And the faces of most of the people in distress were black. I knew right away that I should never have left Washington. I called my chief of staff, Brian Gunderson. “I’m coming home,” I said.

“Yeah. You’d better do that,” he answered.

Then I called the President. “Mr. President, I’m coming back. I don’t know how much I can do, but we clearly have a race problem,” I said.

Rice writes that she “sat there kicking” herself “for having been so tone deaf”:

I wasn’t just the secretary of state with responsibility for foreign affairs; I was the highest-ranking black in the administration and a key advisor to the President. What had I been thinking?

Still, the former Secretary of State defended her old boss, calling it “so unfair, cynical and irresponsible” that many people around the world observing events unfolding during the disaster called Bush racist and uncaring.

The Huffington Post points out that this isn’t the first time Rice has defended Bush’s actions during and after Katrina. She appeared on ABC’s “The View” in 2009 and said: “What really did make me angry was the implication that some people made that President Bush allowed this to happen because these people were black.”

Moral Low Ground believes the fact that Rice is black has little connection with the way black Americans are treated by their government. A quote from Angela Davis comes immediately to mind:

The assumption that the placement of black people like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice in the heart of government would mean progress for the entire community was clearly fallacious… The civil rights movement demanded access, and access had been granted to some. The challenge of the twenty-first century is not to demand equal opportunity to participate in the machinery of oppression. Rather, it is to identify and dismantle those structures in which racism continues to be embedded.

You can now add Barack Obama to that list.


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