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How Stacey Abrams and Condoleezza Rice are thinking about the protests



Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Meghan Markle speaks out on the George Floyd protests, what history tells us about protesting amid a pandemic, and we dig into two must-read op-eds. Have a reflective weekend.

– Two takes. With the U.S. media (finally!) turning to black women for counsel and insight, two of the big national papers are featuring op-eds from prominent black female political figures—the New York Times with Stacey Abrams and the Washington Post with Condoleezza Rice.

In many ways, Abrams and Rice seem worlds apart; Abrams, the former Minority Leader of the Georgia House, made a powerful bid to become Governor of that state and is now seen as a possible Veep pick for Democrat Joe Biden. Rice worked for two Republican Presidents, serving on the Security Council staff of George H.W. Bush and then as Secretary of State in the administration of his son, George W. Bush.

But one thing they share—in addition to blazing new professional territory for black women—is a willingness to wrestle with the outrage over racism and injustice that’s sweeping our nation.

Abrams’s piece focuses on voting—no surprise from the founder of Fair Fight Action, an organization dedicated to voting rights. But it’s careful to avoid the Pollyanna attitude that voting is a cure-all that can single-handedly eliminate racism. Abrams writes:

“To say that the answer is to go cast a ballot feels not just inadequate, but also disrespectful. ‘Go vote’ sounds like a slogan, not a solution. Because millions of us have voted. And too many still die.”

Yet she’s not willing to give up on the power of the ballot box, describing voting as “a first step in a long and complex process, tedious but vital.” Along with casting their votes, she says, citizens must understand what’s broken in our county and how it might be fixed—and they must protest when their voices are not heard. She concludes: “Voting will not save us from harm, but silence will surely damn us all.”

Rice’s op-ed attempts to put the current unrest in a historical context, citing the many times the country has risen up to object to injustice born of America’s “birth defect: Africans and Europeans came to this country together—but one group was in chains.” Too often, she writes, these feelings have eventually faded and we’ve all returned to our “regular” lives.

This time, though, she thinks it may be different. To Rice, that would mean taking action. Yes, that includes structural change, but also honest conversations and acknowledgement of the depth of racism in the United States. “Let us talk with, not at, each other — in our homes, schools, workplaces and places of worship,” she writes.

Ultimately, Rice writes, whether this time really will be different depends on each of us taking responsibility to make it so. So she asks the big question: “[M]y fellow Americans: What will each of you do?”

Kristen Bellstrom

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