George Bush (Still) Doesn't Care About Black People

By Lawrence Ware

I was sitting in a one-bedroom apartment watching the telethon for Hurricane Katrina when it happened. After a commercial break, Kanye West stood nervously looking like he was about to do something that would end his career. He was fidgety and sweating when he said it: “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.” It was a transcendent moment for Black America.

Kanye articulated what we’d all felt watching the aftermath of Katrina: neglect. It was impactful, but also deeply misunderstood. Kanye West was ridiculed. Bush called it a nadir of his presidency. The backlash to his statement never diminished this unmistakable fact: Mr. West was right.

Kanye's assertion "George Bush doesn't care about Black People" is misunderstood if you read it as a statement only about Bush, the man. Kanye's statement comes from a democratic understanding of the president as the face of the American empire. Historically and in that moment, America drags its feet when responding to calamity suffered by people of color, that is, if it responds at all. There has been much hand wringing about the death of black people at the hands of the police, but that is not the only thing that ails black America.

Poor healthcare, poverty, unequal sentencing, inadequate prison oversight, and de facto school segregation are all adverse conditions that disproportionately effect people of color in this country. There has been a great deal of talk about these ills, but aside from the republican contested Affordable Care Act, we have yet to see meaningful policy implemented to correct them. If the president is the face of America, then Kanye’s analysis still holds.

George W. Bush recently returned to New Orleans. He was invited to attend a ceremony marking the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. When he spoke about the disaster, he said, "The storm nearly destroyed New Orleans…” President Bush is as wrong in this statement as Kanye was right a decade before.

The storm was not what nearly destroyed New Orleans. Poverty, racism, neglected levees, and his disastrous response was what nearly destroyed America’s most distinctive city.  While I suspect the levees have been repaired and response times have improved, poverty and racism are still very real features of life in New Orleans and America.

George Bush was the face of America in 2005. He was ultimately responsible for the horrible response to the catastrophe that disproportionately impacted the lives of working-class black people in that city.  The slow response of the Bush presidency still affects black people in New Orleans. The black middle class has left, poverty is above the national average, and what has been called rebuilding is really gentrification at the expense of the poor.

With that understanding, it is safe to say that Kanye was right. And because of the continued impact of Bush’s presidency, his words are relevant today.   George Bush (still) doesn’t care about black people. 

Lawrence Ware is a lecturing professor of philosophy at Oklahoma State University. He is also an assistant pastor at Prospect Church in Oklahoma City. He has appeared on HuffPostLive and written for the African American Pulpit, The Crisis, and other publications.


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DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
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DSA is in the process of forming a Queer Socialists Working Group. This call will cover a discussion of possible activities for the group, its proposed structure, assigning tasks, and reports on the revision of DSA's LGBT statement and on possible political education activities. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
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Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
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Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

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Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
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DSA New Member Orientation Call

May 06, 2017
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You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  2 pm ET; 1 pm CT; 12 pm MT; 11 am PT.  

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
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Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.