Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state, died on March 23 at the age of 84.
According to her family, Albright died of cancer, and she was “surrounded by family and friends.” While many will applaud Albright’s milestones and achievements in office, others describe her as a symbol of white imperial feminism. Some in Black America aren’t crying over her passing.
Imperial feminism is also known as imperialist feminism, colonial feminism or intersectional imperialism. It refers to instances where feminist rhetoric is used to justify empire-building or imperialism in the name of women’s rights.
“Imperial feminism is a feminism that operates on behalf of American empire-building,” wrote activist-scholar Zillah Eisenstein, emerita professor of politics at Ithaca College, in the Fall 2016 edition of The Cairo Review of Global Affairs. “It has a history of using the Western canon of ‘women’s rights’ to justify American wars, most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Imperial feminism imposes rather than negotiates; it dominates rather than liberates; it declares itself the exceptional arbiter of women’s needs. It operates on behalf of class hierarchies across the globe, leaving most women out of the mix. Imperial feminism privileges inequality through gender-bending that masquerades as gendered equality. Imperial feminism privileges empire-building through war. It denies that women lack access or opportunity on the structural basis of their gender oppression. Its view is privatized and individualized with little commitment to the masses of women or non-binary gendered peoples.”
Eisenstein is the author of the books, “The Audacity of Races and Genders: A Personal and Global Story of the Obama Election”; “Sexual Decoys: Gender, Race and War in Imperial Democracy”; and “Against Empire: Feminisms, Racism and the West.”
President Bill Clinton named Albright U.S. ambassador to the United Nations shortly after he was inaugurated in 1993, and in 1996 he nominated her as secretary of state. At the time, the latter made her the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government, CNBC reported.
Albright served in the post for four years, actively promoting the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and military intervention in Kosovo.
A staunch proponent of military intervention, Albright in 1999 pushed for NATO bombings in Yugoslavia to halt the ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo by Yugoslav and Serbian forces. The Kosovo conflict came to be known as Madeleine’s War.
In 1986, Albright was blasted for comments she made about the deaths of Iraqi children due to sanctions imposed by the U.S. during her tenure.
“60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl asked Albright, “We have heard that half a million [Iraqi] children have died. I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”
Albright answered, “I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it.”
Saddam Hussein’s government claimed that more than 500,000 children had died as a result of U.N.-imposed sanctions in the decade leading to the Iraq War of 2003 to 2011. Hussein’s government allegedly manipulated child mortality data provided to the United Nations to discredit the international community, researchers said in a report published by the British Medical Journal of Global Health.
Some Twitter users believe 500,000 number is accurate and blasted Albright’s record.
“Madeleine Albright is the perfect example of the соlоniаΙism in liberal White feminism. As the 1st female Secretary of State, she supported coups in Venezuela and Cuba, the geпoсide of 500,000 Iraqi children, and the colonial myth of American eхсерtionalism,” tweeted New Amauta (@AmautaNew).
“Madeleine Albright will be known for proving that women in our Gov’t are just as capable of being mass murderers as men,” tweeted Black in the Empire (@blackintheempir).
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“Madeline Albright was one of my earliest lessons in the bankruptcy of identity politics. It doesn’t matter if you are the first anything if your politics perpetuate the status quo of racial violence, imperial war making, and capitalist extraction/exploitation,” tweeted Human Rights attorney Noura Erakat (@4noura), an associate professor at Rutgers University.
After leaving public office, Albright taught at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and became a prolific author, writing seven New York Times bestsellers.
In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded Albright the Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.
“I am devastated by the passing of Madeleine Albright. As a refugee, skilled diplomat, 1st female Secretary of State, & champion of democracy, she was a huge inspiration to myself & millions of others. Sending my deepest condolences to her family. May she Rest in Peace” tweeted California Rep. Barbara Lee.
“If Madeleine Albright was your inspiration…we need to talk” Twitter user Sabby Sabs responded.
Photo: Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is interviewed by Maria Bartiromo during her “Mornings with Maria” program on the Fox Business Network, in New York, March 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)