(Photo: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)
The United States will never be a “race blind” nation and the combination of racism and poverty is a “terrible witch's brew,” former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday on CBS' “Face the Nation.”
“Are things better today among whites and African-Americans than they were?” Kathryn Stockett asked Rice.
“We're never going to erase race as a factor in American life. It is a birth defect with which this country was born, out of slavery. We're never really going to be race blind,” Rice answered.
Stockett and Rice were on a panel with two other authors and were asking each other questions. Stockett is the author of The Help, a novel about the relationships between upper-class white women and their black maids in the segregated South of the 1960s, which was also made into a movie.
Rice, who is black, grew up in Birghmingham, Ala., during the period that Stockett wrote about.
Stockett said she gets asked that question a lot, but as a white woman does not feel capable of answering whether race relations are better now than they used to be.
Rice is currently promoting her new book, No Higher Honor, a memoir of her years working under President George W. Bush, first as national security adviser, then as secretary of state.
“One of the parts [of Rice's book] that really rang home for me,” Stockett said, “was when you were at the conference for the Middle East, and you set your speech aside and said, 'look, I know what it feels like to be Palestinian, and be told that you cannot walk down the highway because of who you are. At the same time, I understand what it feels like to be an Israeli mother and wonder if your house is going to be bombed and your children will be killed. And I thought it was so honest of you to expose yourself that way.”
Rice also noted that there have been significant improvements in race relations in the United States. “We have gotten to a place that race is not the limiting factor it once was. I don't think that we necessarily look at somebody who is of a different color now and say, 'oh, I know what they are capable of.' We have a black president. We've had two black secretaries of state. We have black CEO's. Obviously, African-Americans are pushing way into territories that probably my grandparents never would have thought possible.”
Rice, whose mother was a teacher and father was a Presbyterian minister, also said that the combination of race and poverty has become more of an issue since she was a child because our education system is worse off now.
“I think it goes back to whether or not race and class, that is, race and poverty is not becoming even more of a constraint, because, even with the failing public schools, I worry that the way that my grandparents got out of poverty, the way that my parents became educated, is just not going to be there for a whole bunch of kids. I do think that race and poverty is a terrible witch's brew.”
Rice is now a political science professor at Stanford University, where she was provost before joining the Bush administration.