The Race for the White House produces two things: lots of attack ads and unwitting overnight celebrities. Think Sister Souljah. Joe the Plumber. Clint Eastwood’s empty chair. The little boy who spelled “potato” without an “e,” only to have Vice President Dan Quayle helpfully “correct” him. With election season again upon us, The Washington Times continues its series remembering some of our favorite campaign one-hit wonders and asking: Where are they now?
Then: A Rutgers graduate and House legislative intern-turned-Afrocentric rapper and social activist, Sister Souljah courted controversy via sharp-tongued criticism of racism and the federal government. Two of her videos — most notably “The Final Solution: Slavery’s Back in Effect,” in which she rapped, “if there are any good white people, I haven’t met them” — were banned by MTV. When Ms. Souljah responded to a 1992 newspaper interview question about Rodney King and the Los Angeles riots by stating “if black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?” Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton pounced, denouncing her in front of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition. The term “Sister Souljah Moment” has since entered the lexicon as shorthand for politicians publicly repudiating individuals or ideas seen as extremist and attached to themselves, their candidacy or their party.
Now: Born Lisa Williamson, Ms. Souljah is married with a son and is enjoying a second career as the author of the best-selling “urban lit” novel “The Coldest Winder Ever” and a series of books about the globe-trotting adventures of a Sudanese Muslim man named Midnight. She also continues to speak at colleges, asking a group of Clafin University students in 2006, “How can you be a physics major and be shocked when you get pregnant from having sex?”
Fun facts: Following Mr. Clinton’s attack, Ms. Souljah released a long, point-by-point statement in which she argued that her comments were taken out of context and then pilloried the future president for being: (a) a hypocritical draft-dodger; (b) a “reefer smoker”; (c ) someone who “could never quite get his own personal and social behavior together,” particularly with respect to Gennifer Flowers; (d) a former member of an all-white segregated golf club; (e) someone who “takes shots at Dan Quayle’s intellectual feasibility yet he has not presented America with any substantive, comprehensive agenda around economic development, foreign policy, budget containment or social policy”; (f) an integrity-lacking candidate falsely “painting himself as a staunch patriot, a people’s servant, a compassionate liberal, a family man, a pro-woman candidate and a coherent scholar.”
Quotable: “Black people don’t know what white people are talking about when they talk about a Sister Souljah moment,” Ms. Souljah told The Root last year. “I tell them it’s the moment you meet a proud, beautiful black woman you can never forget.”
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Patrick Hruby is an award-winning journalist who holds degrees from Georgetown and Northwestern. He also contributes to ESPN.com and The Atlantic Online, and his work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing. Follow him on Twitter (@patrick_hruby) and contact him at PatrickHruby.net.
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