Colin Powell: Contradictions of Success?

For Africans in America Colin Powell is pretty much the embodiment of success. He is the
American Dream
come true. That is even moreso for West Indian immigrants in North America; the new arrivals, first, second, third and fourth generations all.

But the contradiction of realisation of that dream and being a conscious descendent of African slaves in the Americas is what Colin Powell represents more than anything else. If he has a conscience and he is aware or has not blanked out his people's history...that man in my opinion had some seriously hard times in the last four years or so. The weight of his opinion and voice has been significantly reduced from Bush Snr. to Bush Jnr. He knows now that he was used as bait, as a vote getting gimmck in the first Bush Jnr election. I wonder how he feels now?

Powell does not seem to be like Rice or Clarence Thomas who appear to have erased the past, the history of Africans in the Americas, a long time ago, to get along and get on. The
is one of the biggest prerequisite to achieving success for African Americans, in any important American institutions, such as the Army, the Cabinet, without going completely crazy or geting sick from stress and other related diseases.

Does Powell suffer from hypertension, colon, prostate cancer etc? I never heard any of those health issues mentioned in regard to him. If he does not this man must be one strong person or maybe he is exactly as Belafonte described him a few years ago,a serious
Uncle Tom.

Hmmmn..... I wonder if Alma had to write a book ... her memoires being the wife of the dutifull and loyal American servant...what she would tell in it?

Interesting people these.... but one can only speculate because unfortunately you rarely ever get to know the true story, see the real picture.


Anonymous said…
Nice one Thandie. I'm not quite sure what to make of the General.

In the best of all lights, it's possible that he went into this hoping to effect meaningful change from WITHIN knowing full well he was IN with a den of vipers.

I guess at the end of the day he probably felt safer out in the field amongst exploding bombs and mortar etc than in THAT Administration with THOSE people.

On the other end of the scale, it could be that he was in it purely for ambition. He was courted by Republican's and Democrats. He was "THE MAN". Maybe some vanity and ego took precedence.

Like anything else....the truth may lie somewhere between the 2.

What is for certain is that Powell remains popular in the eyes of the American public and he'll be quite successful in private life.
Jdid said…
welcome back

good blog. First off any man that start pronouncing colin as colon got to be a good pieca idiot. That said I think he really wanted to continue to give to his country so he took this job only to find himself the only moderate in a sea of neo-cons.

Has he forgotten? yes, everyone forgets or at least ignores in order to get by dont they?
cahapa said…
Well I really do not think that Powell epitomizes the African-American African-Caribbean-American dream. (I will come back to who does later). Instead I find he really was a quintessential bureaucrat or civil servant - the type which Kant describes as "purely passive...[in] artificial agreement with the government for the public good...Thus it would be very harmful if an officer who, given an order by his superior, should start, while in service, to argue concerning the utility or appropriateness of that command. He must obey”. (Immanuel Kant - What is Enlightenment? - sorry to use this dead white male but he gives a pretty good description of the Euro-American model of a bureaucrat).

Condoleeza Rice agrees too. In her acknowledgement of her appointment to Powell’s job she praised him thus "It is humbling to imagine succeeding my dear friend and mentor Colin Powell. He is one of the finest PUBLIC SERVANTS our nation has ever produced,"

Still where Powell failed, is that he did not insert one iota of humanity in his work, so given is he to duty-bound obligation (often inculcated in African-American African-Caribbean children through severe beatings and brutal cautionary criticism and probably intensified by militarized training). Note that assertion of humanity or opinion or morality is not in conflict with being a ‘good’ civil servant. For example, even Kant’s ideal type Euro-American bureaucrat/civil servant “cannot equitably be prevented form making observations…concerning the mistakes in the military service nor for submitting these to the public for its judgment” So to be cynical, maybe Powell was waiting for after his stint of service to share his views and we may expect to see Powell at long last give us his opinion – in several biographies or autobiographies and through the speech-giving circuit – bit by bit it will all be revealed. And so as the first respondent to Thandie’s blog predicted he will do all-right-thank-you in private life.

So who is the pennant bearer of the Dream? Well even if we think she’s the antichrist – the African/Caribbean-American Dream is DOCTOR Rice! She holds three of the most critical characteristics that we deem to be important (especially important to African Caribbeans)
1. SCHOOLING. Condie have schooling like nobody else on that team! She bright no ras! Start university at 15! Not a mere foot soldier (which is how we like to dismiss Colin Powell). According to the Latvain Foreign Minister – giving his congratulations to Ms Rice – she is a “very intellectual choice”. And America right about now is in need of some public show of brains since brawn has not been serving them none too good over the last couple years in Iraq.
2. She FITS IN! She’s on the dream team. Condoleeza Rice belongs (as much as it is possible for an African woman to) and that is yet another achievement on the list of priorities. For us, to ‘fit in’ is the sure sign of success – even more than simply achieving. Fitting in denotes acceptance and assuages our tortured souls that at long last we have ‘forced’ them to respect us enough to allow us to eat at their table. We don’t care if the food give us belly ache (like Powell). And I would just like to point out that we don’t need to forget to fit in.
3. And finally, she has balls. And you know how we like those gonads!. Colin Powell ended up looking like a ‘batty bwoy’ - ‘emasculated’ in the execution of his manly duties as soldier and Secretary of State. But in Doctor Rice we expect a 4 year hard-on!
ThandieLand said…
hahaha.... Cahapa I like dat four-year hard on... woooiiieeee too sweet!

I agree with most of what you post but I differ in regards to Powell not having attained the American Dream. He had the highest post in a soldier could occupy in the US that is some serious arrival for any man much less a black man. And he was well accepted as accepted as a black man can be in the US. He had so much power that he gave real weight to which ever side he picked four yrs ago in the US elections.

That has faded some and it is that indigestion from eating all the bad food that has him now. But he reached as far as a African-Caribbean- American man with a conscoius can reach. You must be stopped in your tracks.

I agree wid you, Condi will go further but that is b/c she has a hardy stomach, one that is strengthened b/c she was taught earlier and better than Powell to forget and disregard the underdog, the oppressed, the victimized. Yah being in University in the 60s at 15 would have taught her quickly how to get along, how to disassocaite form the victim and what to forsake to get ahead.

But we agree generally on the impact and significance and what drives these very visible and important black achievers of the US.

Looking forward to more discussions on this from all.
o said…
Is not di man dat start fe pronounce his name CO-LON. 'Im parents Jamaican... although me agree some a mi people dem CHUPID when dem name dem pickney dem... is de white Republican (re: conservative) media dat start a call de man CO-LON. Lawd 'ave mercy on us all, iyah! Dem call de ooman "Condi". Dat not her name! Cussid w people dem!
cahapa said…

Leonard Pitts offers some excellent commentary on Harry Belafonte's recent comments about Colin Powell. He condemns the common belief that African Americans must be liberal to be black. This sort of racist groupthink is "just a different set of chains."

October 22, 2002
Is Colin Powell black enough?

Strip away the verbiage, and that's essentially the question Harry Belafonte raised in his recent controversial interview with a San Diego radio station. It is the question that has long lurked in the subtext for African-Americans suspicious of a black man too beloved by the GOP faithful.

For those who missed it: The singer and activist, who is at odds with the Bush administration over its push toward war with Iraq and its dubious record on civil liberties, accused the secretary of state of being scared to confront his boss on these and other issues.

Specifically, Belafonte likened Powell to a house Negro, those "yassuh-boss" toadies who kissed up to the master and sometimes betrayed their fellow slaves in hopes of being allowed to live and work in the comfort of the master's home. "When Colin Powell dares to suggest something other than what the master wants to hear, he will be turned back out to pasture," Belafonte said.

Powell struck back in an interview with CNN: "If Harry had wanted to attack my politics, that was fine. If he wanted to attack a particular position I hold, that was fine. But to use a slave reference, I think, is unfortunate and is a throwback to another time and another place that I wish Harry had thought twice about using."

Belafonte has said that he stands by his remarks.

Me, I would stand upwind of them. Belafonte embarrassed himself here. And I say that as one who admires him.

It's not that I think he's wrong about the administration's post-Sept. 11 record on civil rights. When the government interns people without allowing them access to legal representation, observers ought to be alarmed.

Nor am I here to fight about Belafonte's opposition to war. Where Iraq is concerned, President Bush seems destined to go down in history as the reincarnation of Winston Churchill or Chicken Little. Belafonte wouldn't be the only one to suspect the latter.

No, my disagreement with Belafonte has nothing to do with his critique of White House policy and everything to do with playing blacker-than-thou with Colin Powell. Black folk do that entirely too much, throw around "House Negro" and its synonym, "Uncle Tom," with reckless, unthinking and injurious abandon.

Not that such behavior is unique to black people. Most marginalized groups tend to be zealous enforcers of their members' loyalty. To belong to one is to know that you will be called traitor and figuratively cast out if you fail to be what the group feels you should.

I'm not so naive as to think there aren't people filled with loathing for the color or culture into which they were born. Nor am I so charitable as to feel they shouldn't receive some abuse when they are found out.

For my money, though, Belafonte questioned Powell's racial bonafides for the same misguided reason blacks often do. Not because of disavowal, disparagement or distance, but disagreement. After all, one would be hard put to make the case that Powell, who once defended affirmative action at a GOP convention, has groveled for white folks' approval. What he has done is hold conservative political views not shared by many other blacks. You may think he's wrong, but doesn't he have the right to be wrong without it becoming a question of his racial fidelity?

I'm no fan of the administration Powell serves. But he is no more a racial traitor for that service than Belafonte was for divorcing a black woman to marry a white one back in 1957. Some people suggested that he, too, was not black enough.

So he should know better. Should know that sometimes, "black enough" is just a means people use to regulate how you think, what you do, where you live and who you love.

And that's not freedom. It's just a different set of chains.



Copyright 2002, Chicago Tribune

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