Monday, October 17, 2005

Does George Bush care about black people?

I’m pretty sure everyone remembers rapper Kanye West’s declaration that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” on Friday, September 2nd during a live television benefit for the survivors of hurricane Katrina (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/03/AR2005090300165.html) If you live of the west coast you probably heard about this a bit late since the “liberal media” cut the feed until they could regain control and stifle the anti-Bush sentiment. Anyway, the question to me isn’t whether this was appropriate, that’s a question for accountants. If Kanye West’s tirade cause more people to give more money, then it was appropriate, if not, it was inappropriate. The event was, after all, to raise money for the disaster victims. However, the thing that interests me is, was he correct?

For those who aren’t clear, the following is a good, if opinionated, time line of events involving the Katrina disaster. (http://www.thinkprogress.org/katrina-timeline) It clearly shows that Bush, even though he was on vacation, was doing some work here and there. He spoke to Secretary Chertoff, ate some cake with Senator McCain (R-Az), peddled his Medicare plan, and that was all in one day. Maybe that’s why he couldn’t react, he was too busy playing guitar. After all a photo op with a country singer is so much more important than people dying.

Honestly though, Bush has never been the bastion of quick action during times of disaster. Need we recall September 11th when he sat reading “My Pet Goat” in a Flordia class room while people in New York were burning in the Twin Towers. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A47734-2004Jul13.html) There have been some bright spots from time to time. For example, when hurricane Frances struck Florida in 2004 Bush declared the state a national disaster area that day. (http://www.cnn.com/2004/WEATHER/09/04/hurricane.frances/) However, the area stuck by hurricane Frances was 79% white and far more affluent than New Orleans. On top of that his brother is the governor and a presidential hopeful. (http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/05/31/bush.plug/)

But the big question to me isn’t whether Bush was slow to respond to New Orleans, it’s why. The fact is Dubya had lots potential motives to not care. New Orleans is predominantly black, but it’s also poor. (http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/SAFFFacts?_event=Search&geo_id=&_geoContext=&_street=&_county=New) Beyond that it also voted for Kerry in 2004. (http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/states/LA/P/00/) So maybe he’s not a racist. After all, he seems pretty comfortable with Secretary of State Rice, and everyone knows that no racist has black friends. (http://www.blackpeopleloveus.com/) Besides, its not like he’s every ignored the plight of black people in need of assistance (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3085617.stm) even after the United Nations begged him to send in troops. (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/07/10/world/main562488.shtml) Okay, so maybe he has. But, come on, the rebels were Muslims. (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/07/11/national/main562915.shtml)

Let’s be fair though. I mean those weren’t U.S. citizens and we all know how Bush feels about nation building. (http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/columnist/wickham/2004-09-20-wickham_x.htm) Well, at least when the nation is short on oil reserves and dictators that tried to kill his father. (http://archives.cnn.com/2002/ALLPOLITICS/09/27/bush.war.talk/) When it comes to domestic issues whether it’s speaking to the NAACP (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A40255-2004Jul10.html) or backing affirmative action (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/01/20030115-7.html) he sends a strong message.

The other side of the argument is that Bush has appointed a record number of minorities. (http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2004-12-09-diverse-usat_x.htm) How much does that mean? Hard to say. Either he’s race blind or he loves tokens.

The one thing that’s oddly clear is that voting patterns didn’t seem to effect anything. Mississippi voted solidly for Bush both times (http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/states/MS/P/00/ and http://www.fec.gov/pubrec/fe2000/2000presprim.htm) They were hit hard as well, losing lives and property. While it is true that Bush did stop there before New Orleans, it wasn’t until the people have plenty of time to languish in the devastation. And I though Bush was loyal to his friends. Just because the poor of Mississippi like Bush doesn’t mean Bush likes the poor of Mississippi.
When it comes to the poor, Bush has demonstrated great care. He’s sending jobs to China (http://www.commondreams.org/scriptfiles/views03/1015-01.htm) and has increased their tax burden (http://www.faireconomy.org/press/2004/ShiftyTaxCuts_pr.html) not to mention the effect he’s had on unemployment. (http://data.bls.gov/PDQ/servlet/SurveyOutputServlet?request_action=wh&graph_name=LN_cps bref3) The amount he cares is amazing... amazingly small.

So does George Bush care about black people? The jury’s still out. With the generally inverse relationship of melanin to wealth in the United States, it’s hard to tell which was his primary motive for disinterest. If it was race, there were certainly a lot of white people that paid the price as well. (http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/09/20/forgotten.town.ap/) But as his mother explained just after Katrina “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them.” (http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/barbara2.asp) With an attitude like that, how can anyone possibly figure out where junior could have picked up any racist or classist notions from?

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