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Condoleezza Rice, and taking a swing at progress

Who would have thought the latest story of progress would mean Condoleezza Rice swinging a 9-iron?

This week the Augusta National Golf Club — one of the most exclusive on the planet, all-male home to the Masters and known for those fusty green blazers that practically scream old scotch and older money — invited the former secretary of state and South Carolina financier and philanthropist Darla Moore to join.

Progress.

And, remarkable.

Augusta is a private club, a fact often cited in its stubborn resistance to change. African-Americans weren't admitted until 1990, unless you count caddies.

This is the South I was raised in, where change is slow to come, and then there it is.

There is this great and telling story of Tampa in the 1970s, long before I got here. Betty Castor, who was a county commissioner at the time, went to the froofy University Club for a lunch meeting with city and federal officials.

And was promptly kicked out for being a woman.

Castor remembers that long elevator ride: "On the way down, I didn't know whether to get angry or to cry, because it was humiliating," she told me this week. "I decided the best way to proceed was to get angry."

So she bought herself a hot dog and called a press conference.

And when she became a state senator, she pushed for legislation against holding public meetings at places that discriminate.

Progress.

When I moved to Tampa I heard tell of Ye Mystic Krewe, the all-white, all-male bastion of society and power, and undisputed king of the annual Gasparilla pirate celebration. I was a young reporter covering the docking of the Krewe's pirate ship one year when the gangplank failed and workers had to get underneath and prop it on their shoulders so the partying rich guys could romp across.

The workers were black, the pirates white, a picture of Tampa back then that's still in my head.

After much bluster and controversy, the krewe admitted a few black members.

Maybe even more important, diverse new krewes sprang up.

And this week, two women got invited to Augusta.

Hey, we could use a little good news given this week's headlines about Rep. Todd Akin, Republican Senate hopeful from Missouri, and his cruelly stupid, hopelessly ignorant and now-infamous opinions on abortion and rape.

Yes, he said it: Women who are really, truly raped rarely get pregnant, by which he presumably meant women who aren't making it up or, you know, asking for it. In a "legitimate rape," he said, a woman's body "has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

A 1996 study that showed some 32,000 pregnancies from rape in America yearly tell a different story. At least the world has changed enough that fellow Republicans could not get away from Akin fast enough.

Augusta is progress, even if progress only occurs because there's too many powerful women and minorities to ignore.

Still, it might have been fun to hear Rice send regrets: Thanks, but I've had a lifetime of hanging out with old white guys.

Condoleezza Rice, and taking a swing at progress 08/21/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 9:38pm]

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