On my radio show, Spirit in Action-3rd Tuesdays, January 16th, 2007, I had the pleasure of interviewing distinguished Professor Clarence Lusane, one of the most prolific writers and thinkers of our times. He is an author, activist, scholar, lecturer and journalist. Currently, he is the professor of Political Science at the School of International Service, American University in Washington DC.
On the heels of the nation’s celebration and remembrance of one of its greatest Americans, Martin Luther King, we are challenged with new paradigms of black leadership. Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, these two highly visible black appointees have shaped US foreign policy for the last six years. How would Martin Luther King evaluate their records on promoting policies of peace, human rights, and economic parity around the world?
My show offered our listeners a candid and frank “conversation” on Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice as the top diplomats of US Foreign Policy. Professor Lusane’s recent book, “Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice: Foreign Policy, Race, and Gender The New American Century," provided the back drop for a heated and often times intense dialogue with our listeners. His book represents a scholarly work of modern-day foreign policy. It is a most read for activists, advocates, historians, social and political scientists.
Professor Luanne argues that Powell and Rice, while both supporting the ideology of the Bush Administration, are both different in the tactical approaches each take in executing the Bush’s doctrines’ of militarism, unilateralism, and power. He reports they both use race when it advances the Administration’s political goals.
Conversely, they do not use race to advance racial, class or civil rights objectives.
Ten to one, the listening audience felt that Powell and Rice had preformed their jobs badly. Some even felt “shamed” by them as agents of Bush and his ill-conceived Iraq war plans. The comments reflect the disappointment and desperation members of the community feel toward Powell, Rice, and Bush. They hope and long for progressive black leadership that connects race, gender and class with the broader struggles of all oppressed and impoverished people.
Professor Lusane states, “While some black Americans and many in Africa and the diaspora celebrated the Powell and Rice appointments through the prism of collective racial achievements, others worried that a Clarence Thomas-like Trojan Horse scenario of racial “betrayal” was unfolding.”
As I reflect on the life and mission of Martin Luther King, I think he would remind us that our leadership has a responsibility to create and implement policies and programs that uplift the poor, disadvantage, and the oppressed. And, when we fail to do this, we usher in the destruction of what is good and great about our nation and the role we play in the world. He too, might offer a failing grade to Powell and Rice.