Getting past

Getting past
: I was raised in an old-time American liberal tradition that believed our national ideal — melting-pot nirvana — would be the day when we’d all stop treating each other differently; we’d all be individuals; we’d be colorblind (and sex-blind and ethnic-blind and disability-blind and so on and so on).

And that’s why yesterday’s New York Times report on Dr. Condi Rice’s testimony before the 9/11 commission got under my craw, for it made a big deal of Condi Rice being black. Aren’t we past that?

Allesandra Stanley — my least favorite TV critic for many reasons in many reviews — gives us this take on Dr. Rice’s testimony:

There was absolutely nothing in Condoleezza Rice’s neutral-toned suit, primly folded hands or calm demeanor to draw attention to her sex or race. Her answers, guarded, prosaic and a bit pedantic, were typical of any high-level Washington official.

But the last time the major networks interrupted regular programming to provide live coverage of a black woman testifying under oath in Washington was years ago when Anita Hill spoke out against Clarence Thomas in 1991.

And at least one former senator intent on confronting Ms. Rice seemed sensitive to her background.

“Let me say at the beginning I’m very impressed, indeed, I’d go so far as to say moved by your story, the story of your life and what you’ve accomplished,” Bob Kerrey, a commission member and former Democratic senator from Nebraska, told Ms. Rice, referring to her early childhood in segregated Birmingham, Ala. “It’s quite extraordinary.”

Actually, Ms. Rice has said in interviews that there is nothing unusual about her success given her upbringing by parents and grandparents who were college educated and who prodded her to excel.

What an insulting, racist bunch of drivel. What was supposed to “draw attention to her sex or race”? A Janet Jackson wardrobe malfuntion, perhaps?

Are we still to be surprised that a black woman can be accomplished and smart and powerful on either count: black or woman?

We should judge Rice for Rice. But they’re not doing that in the NY Times.

It’s all the more ridiculous that Stanley falls for Kerrey’s condescending game of passive-aggression: ‘I’m going to say something nice about the black woman before I attack her rudely.’

Later yesterday, I spent time with some wonderful people who are trying to do good things and for a few minutes, the topic of diversity came up. I realized that I felt like the odd man out of that discussion, for — especially since I’ve gained experience online — I don’t see diversity as a matter of having one of this and of that on a committee or a staff … because they are simply too many thises and thats in the world.

How do you define diversity these days: black, Hispanic (which Hispanic?), Asian (which Asian?), Arab (which Arab?), Jewish, Christian (which Christian?), Muslim (which Muslim?), disabled (which disability), young, old (how old?), left, right, libertarian, straight, gay, lesbian… and on and on and on…

I’ve been telling people in media that one great reason to embrace weblogs is that they bring in diversity better than hiring: You don’t end up with one of this and one of that but with a endless variety of viewpoints and perspectives and backgrounds.

In the end, we’re all individuals. We’re not labels. That is supposed to be American Nirvana, isn’t it? Oh, sure, we gave up on the melting pot; we gave up on the idea that we’d all end up assimilated and similar. We’re all different. So why put us into one bucket or another with the expectations — the prejudices — that brings?

Why think for a second that Dr. Condoleeza Rice is going to be anything other than smart and accomplished and tough and strong? Why should the New York Times of all publications expect her to exhibit racial and sexual stereotypes?

Aren’t we past that?