Friday, May 23, 2008

Change What is Within your Power to Change

Dead Men Working has a piece about an interview in the Washington Times with Secretary Rice.

Change What is Within your Power to Change

In a recent interview with the Washington Times, the Secretary of State was asked about race. She spoke clearly and forcefully about the inequities African Americans have faced in America, and noted that "African Americans have loved and had faith in this country even when this country did not love and have faith in them."

The interview received little attention.

So little, in fact, that Roland Martin, and African American author and journalist, publicly wondered why.

One reason may be that, race aside, the Secretary of State has not done a very good job advancing civil rights within the agency she heads. In fact, in certain aspects, things have taken a pronounced step backward under her tenure.

Despite the unquestionable obstacles the Secretary herself has faced and the many inequities (and worse) she honestly claims to have witnessed in her life, her legitimacy as a spokesperson for civil rights issues is tarnished by her own inaction in the areas most directly under her own ability to control.

Unless one defines civil rights solely in terms of the rights of African Americans, the State Department (with particular attention to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security) does not express the same love and faith towards Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, Gay Americans, and others that the historic patriotism and contributions of those groups should merit.


If the Secretary of State is truly of the belief that faith in the patriotism of American citizens should not be dictated by race, then she would immeasurably help her own credibility if she also opposed the free exercise of bigotry by DS agents and others.

Madame Secretary,

With respect:

Jewish Americans do not, by sole virtue of their religion, have dual loyalties, even if many of them support (as does the president of the United States) the right of Israel to exist as a free and secure nation.

Muslim Americans are not, simply by definition, supporters of anti-American terrorism.

Gay Americans do not, by simple definition, have loose morals, nor are most openly Gay Americans more vulnerable to blackmail than anyone else.

Naturalized Americans, even from countries which may temporarily oppose our policies, do not necessarily support the politics of the countries they left behind. In fact, most left those countries, and came to America, precisely because they oppose them. And many first-generation immigrants, including many of the founding fathers and mothers of our country, have served America with honor and distinction.

The patriotism of individual American citizens cannot be deduced from their skin color, religion, ethnic background or sexual orientation, and when DS/PSS routinely confuses religion with Foreign Preference, or homosexuality with criminal sexual behavior, DS is doing so improperly.

And yes, we know that you can point to token examples of FSOs in each of those categories who are doing fine, for now. And we know that the Department's rules are EEO compliant. But tokens do not excuse the prejudicial treatment of even one other person. And when rules are broken, and nobody objects, the rules don't really matter.

If your exposure to inequity and injustice has taught you to hate inequity and injustice, then stop them in the place you have the most power to change things.

Digger comments:
I had seen the interview, and in particular, recognized that her quote could easily be applied to other minority groups. Gays and lesbians too continue to love and have faith in this country even though this country STILL does not love and have faith in us. We are STILL expected to ride at the back of the proverbial bus, and I recognize that other minorities are in similar positions. What has happened is not that the country has recognized that discrimination is wrong so much as it has replaced the socially acceptable targets of derision and discrimination. I hope soon though that our country will love and have faith in all of us, and in particular, recognize the greater patriotism is takes to serve a country that does not keep faith with you.

You can read DMW's entire piece here.


Johnson said...

The patriotism of individual American citizens cannot be deduced from their skin color, religion, ethnic background or sexual orientation, and when DS/PSS routinely confuses religion with Foreign Preference, or homosexuality with criminal sexual behavior, DS is doing so improperly.

I honestly do not know if that is an accurate statement. There are many factors that affect someone's loyalty to the US. It would be naive to think that their background has nothing to do with it.

However, it would be unwise to link Gay Americans along with other minority groups. Gays are treated better in the US far more than the vast majority of other countries. Where else would they be loyal to?

However, with all the other groups, there are definite interests that they may support which may not be in the US's best interest.

Digger said...

I disagree. I don't think that quote, which comes from Dead Men Working, suggests that a person's background has nothing to do with their patriotism. It is saying you can't determine someone's patriotism based on those things alone.

Yes, there are Jewish American spys, Muslim American terrorists. But to paint all of them with that brush with regards to a security investigation is anathema to everything we stand for as Americans. I have served with deeply patriotic Jewish and Muslim Americans, some of whom are naturalized Americans.

Background is more than religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Is a Jewish or Muslim American who was born here of the same background as one born in Israel or Saudi Arabia? Which is likely to be more patriotic? One raised with American values, or at least exposed to American values, or one who chose this country?

And couldn't a gay American easily be more loyal to say Canada, Spain, South Africa, etc., where they have full marriage rights? But to assume that of me, or the hundreds of other gay and lesbian Foreign Service Officers, would be dead wrong. Because even though as a gay person and as an American Indian I see this country without rose-colored glasses, I still think it is the best thing the world has going. Which is why I serve it and why I am willing to go to dangerous places for it. And I think that is just as true of the vast majority of people who choose to serve, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, etc.