Letters

Readers respond to "BAP Like Me" by Adrienne Crew.


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Salon Staff
November 28, 2002 10:39PM (UTC)

[Read "BAP Like Me."]

I am so glad to have read Adrienne Crew's article about black princesses. However, I would remind her that many, many of us willingly subject ourselves to dutiful, emotionally dead lives, black or white.

I am only now confronting the attitudes I put on when younger about myself and my surroundings, knowing that if I played the perfect son, everyone would love me, and nobody would know the difference. But like in Ms. Crew's article, the mask wore on me until I felt so heavy and alone, I had to break free of it.

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I can say I identify because I am gay, or I can say that it doesn't matter who you are, so long as you have something you feel you must hide. Thank goodness that I am beginning to peel off these layers and also begin to feel genuine warmth from so many people around me whom I previously feared.

-- Stephen

Madeleine Albright displays all of the characteristics ascribed to Ms. Rice, and yet no such article was ever written about her during the Clinton administration. Perhaps because Ms. Albright is a Jew and thus the author feels that stereotypical "nerd" behavior is only to be expected.

I love the sexism and racism of this article's central premise: Ms. Rice is too cold (i.e., un-feminine) and tries too hard (un-black).

I pity the author. Her article says far more about her deeply internalized racism than it does about Ms. Rice.

-- John Sanders

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Ms. Crews article on Condoleezza Rice resonates deep. I, too, was raised to be a black American princess, one who knew which fork to use in four-star establishments and what words to speak in mixed company. My upbringing served me well, and only later did I come to realize that my pedigree functioned more as a survival skill enabling me to traverse racial and social strata without losing my sanity.

I have never been able to dismiss the powerful persona of Dr. Rice. Indeed, she was a role model of sorts: In the early '90s, while I struggled with the Cyrillic alphabet at Yale, my mother, in an attempt to inspire, sent me a newspaper clipping discussing Condis fluency in the Russian language. And so Ms. Crew deftly identifies the connection and struggle I feel with our National Security Advisor: While I hate the company she keeps and the policies she espouses, I recognize myself in Condi, and I admire her endurance in staying the course as the dutiful daughter. Wearing that mask is hard, hard work, and I, like Ms. Crew, finally traded it in for one that allowed me to be fully human.

Condoleezza Rice may be a phenomenon in a conservative administration (and in a country that has difficulty recognizing smart African-American women), but there are a whole bunch of Condis out in the world. Many thanks to Ms. Crew for championing Black Geek Girls like us.

-- M'Balia Singley

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The column about Condi Rice is the most insulting column I have ever read. You liberals have been really showing your true colors ever since Bush and Republicans have assume power. You see the death of your big liberalism dreams beginning to fall just like the Soviet Union. The death blow will come with the reform of Social Security, the biggest redistribution of wealth (theft) program we have in the country.

The left attacks Condi and Colin because you fear they will bring blacks to the Republican Party and that will be end the liberal control of any government. This is a war conservatives have been fighting for 20 years and winning. Now all we need is the conservative to take back the Democratic Party and move you liberals out of the leadership.

People are starting to see that you liberals really stand for CONTROL and POWER. You only create those programs to control people not to help them. People see it with your fear tactics on Social Security and every other government service. Clinton only survived because he passed our agenda every time he got in trouble.

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It's just like Michael Moore said: "Clinton was the best Republican president we ever had." He led our party to the control of the Senate and House and set the stage for us to control the White House. Clinton treated the Democrats just like he treated Hillary. He used you to get elected and attain power and then played you like a fool. At least Hillary got a Senate seat out of the deal. The Democratic Party just got played and put out of power.

--Abe Watson

Though Adrienne Crew qualified that the "black male nerd" cultural profile has increased since the 1980s I would like to add the following caveat -- it's the glasses.

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My first encounters/memories of the black male nerd on the popular public stage were in the following television shows:"I Spy," "Mission Impossible," and to a certain extent "Ironsides." Quite possibly it was the absence of eyeglasses, or their obvious physical presence, that the black characters may not have been recognized as nerds. But each black male character in those shows was portrayed as an intellect with more to offer than the usual stereotypical portrayals of black men. The individuals mentioned in the article also rise above and offer more, but they all wear glasses and are not identified for their physicality.

Black male nerds (real and theatrical) have been around for a while. They just did not always wear glasses and were sometimes virile-looking individuals.

Or maybe the definition of "nerd" is systematic and cruel -- not only are you intelligent, but you have to be a nonathletic type who wears glasses.

-- Steve Carter

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Great article. As an assimilated Hispanic/Mexican-American woman from a poor and middle-class but educated family background, I try to explain to others why Ms. Rice disconcerts me. This article helps me understand my feelings better and explains my discomfort in an articulate way.

Partisan politics aside (and I admit that this is an issue), I do not respect the path Ms. Rice has chosen and the mentors she follows. I believe that Ms. Rice and many of the African-Americans who kept their racial blinders on who came before her are not helping the way my own more disadvantaged minority forebears did.

Thank you for this article by someone who knows Ms. Rice's social culture well.

I now await the Andrew Sullivan take, which will be overblown and accuse us all of being racists.

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-- Rebecca Jaramillo

As the male equivalent of Adrienne Crew's black American princess (my credentials: I once played Wagner on a ghetto blaster while walking to my all-boy high school), I have two points, and one query, to make regarding her piece:

1) Aren't these references to "white behavior" unwitting expressions of the racist presumptions that BAPs exist to contradict? Meaning: by the term "white behavior" I'm quite sure you're not thinking of what happens on a Superbowl Sunday on the grounds of an Ozark trailer park. Isn't "white" an unexamined shorthand for articulate, well-groomed and well-prepared?

2) Intra-black racism (mocha-skinned, button-nosed and wavy-haired are the internalized ideals) plays a strangely unmentioned role in the overall profile. The passing reference to Lena Horne was almost a semiotic nod to this.

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3) What is Adrienne doing for lunch next Tuesday?

-- Steven Augustine, Berlin


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