Menu

ARCHIVE

Powell, Rice Accused of Toeing the Line

Harry Belafonte, the calypso singer and dancer who emerged as a hot young star during an era of backdoor entry for black entertainers, doesn't like the two most prominent black officials entering through the front.

Earlier this month, Belafonte accused Secretary of State Colin Powell of being a "house slave" for adhering to the party line of an administration Belafonte clearly opposes.

"There's an old saying in the days of slavery. There are those slaves on the plantation and there were those slaves who lived in the big house. You got the privilege of living in the house to serve the master. Colin Powell was permitted to come into the house of the master," Belafonte said on a radio talk show in San Diego.

Belafonte also accused National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice of turning her back on black people.

And while Powell earlier shook off the statements with a laughing dismissal, both leaders responded this weekend to the charges they don't properly "represent."

"I think it's unfortunate that Harry found it necessary to use that kind of reference," Powell said on Fox News Sunday. "I don't know what reference he would use to white Cabinet officers who were in the house of the master."

Powell said Belafonte had the right to attack his politics, but added: "I'm serving my nation. I'm serving this president, my president, our president. I'm very happy to do so."

Rice, speaking Sunday on a news program, also retorted, "Everybody should be able to debate views, but I don't need Harry Belafonte to tell me what it means to be black."

But Belafonte, 75, wasn't the last black American to harp on Powell and Rice for backing the Bush administration. Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson jumped into the fray on Sunday when he told a black church that Powell is "not on our team."

The barrage has conservative African-Americans up in arms.

"The Democratic race-baiting machine is in full motion now," said Niger Innis of the Congress of Racial Equality.

Innis said the politically correct crowd views black Republicans as sellouts, not successes.

"They believe for you to be authentically black, you have to toe their line and if you don't toe their line, then you should be disciplined, and the way they discipline you is to call you names and by chastising you, not by challenging you on policies and asking for a full debate and discussion on the issue, but throwing stones at you."

Author and columnist Earl Hutchinson added that the debate demonstrates how independent-thinking blacks are chastised for not toeing a liberal line.

"Jesse Jackson says [Powell] is 'not on our team.' Well, what is our team? We have to use football and baseball analogies instead of serious dialogue" to argue legitimate political differences, Hutchinson said.

Some blacks have said that Belafonte has made a point, since Powell and Rice are products of a Bush political machine that chose them to be members of the team.

James Cone, author of Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare, said Malcolm X criticized mainstream civil rights leaders and groups as "the black leadership which was chosen by the dominant white society."

"Now didn't the Bush administration choose Powell? So what's the difference?" Cone said.

"It's not a nice thing to say, but the truth is often very provocative and hurtful," he added.

Others say it is demeaning to think that everyone in a distinct racial or ethnic group would think alike.

"Double standard? There's such a double standard, Stevie Wonder can see the double standard," said columnist Armstrong Williams.

"Of all people, [Powell] is one of the most independent thinkers in the Bush Cabinet," said David Almasi, director of Project 21, a leadership network for conservative blacks.

Belafonte has since said that the remarks were not meant to be personal, but a criticism of the Bush administration.

"I'd like to see both [Powell] and Condoleezza Rice show some moral backbone, show some courage, show some commitment to principles that are far higher than those being espoused by their boss," Belafonte told The Associated Press.

However, long after slavery's end, it seems some still find it hard to break the chains of race.

Fox News' Eric Shawn and The Associated Press contributed to this report.