Condoleezza Rice, who served as the nation’s first black female secretary of state under former President George W. Bush, pushed back on an NBC News reporter’s claim that race relations have worsened under President Donald Trump.
During a sit-down interview with Sheinelle Jones of NBC, the reporter asked Rice her thoughts on the notion that it currently “feels worse now when we’re talking about race.” She would later specifically tie the suggestion to Trump, noting that the discourse “comes from the top-down,” starting with the president.
“It sure doesn’t feel worse than when I grew up in Jim Crow Alabama,” Rice immediately fired back, as reported by The Blaze. “So let’s drop this notion that we’re worse race relations today than we were in the past. Really? That means we’ve made no progress.”
“I think the hyperbole about how much worse it is isn’t doing us any good. This country’s never going to be colorblind. We had the initial original sin of slavery. It’s still with us,” she added.
“For people who say, it’s top-down, it starts with the president—” countered Jones, before being cut off by Rice.
“Oh, come on, alright,” the former secretary of state jumped in. “I would be the first to say we need to watch our language about race. We need to watch that we don’t use dog whistles to people. But when we start saying, ‘Oh, you know, it’s worse today,’ no, they’re not.”
Rice went on to recall memorable moments of racism she experienced as a child. After leaving a segregated school, Rice attended a school where only three black girls were in her class with her. She recalled one instance when another student didn’t want to sit next to her because of her race.
“My father said, ‘You know what? It’s just fine if they don’t want to sit next to you because you’re black—as long as they move,'” Rice said.
In May 2018, Rice was also asked about race and politics, this time in the context of rapper and fashion designer Kanye West being lampooned by the media for throwing his support behind President Trump.
“As a successful woman of color out there, when you see Kanye West talking like this and getting the pushback that he is, what do you think?” asked host Maria Bartiromo on “Mornings with Maria.”
“Well, my view of it — first of all, I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it, but I can say that people should be able to express their views. Not all of us have to think politically the same way,” said Rice.
“I’ve said to people sometimes, ‘I’ve been black all my life. You don’t have to tell me how to be black,’” she continued. “So I think we need to recognize that in some ways the height of prejudice is to look at somebody and think you know what they think because of the color of their skin.”
“And so I hope we get to the point where people get to express their views and you can agree with them or disagree with them … that, after all, is what it means to be an American is to have the ability to say what you think,” she added.