So George W. Bush is in the news again for saying something stupid. *Ho hum*
“‘I didn’t like hearing people claim that I lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction or cut taxes to benefit the rich. But the suggestion that I was racist because of the response to Katrina represented an all-time low.’”
So, to be clear. This is the president that presided over the September 11th terrorist attacks, two mismanaged wars in which thousands died, the largest expansion of government intrusion in history, directed smear campaigns and dirty tricks against political opponents, and watched as hundreds of thousands of people suffered in the wake of a hurricane. He was almost universally reviled by the international community, irretrievably tarnished the reputation of the United States, destroyed public schooling, and created a gag rule that denied health care to women all over the world. This is a man whose name is now synonymous with failure, ineptitude, stupidity, and hubris.
But being called racist was the low point of his presidency.
This is part of the reason why I think the word racism needs to be redefined for accuracy. We use it to describe some kind of active hatred and violence against a group of people, when its contemporary face is far more insidious than that. I don’t doubt for a moment that George W. Bush doesn’t affirm white supremacy openly – I’m sure he thinks he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. However, his lack of response to the tragedy in Louisiana, and the lopsided, mismanaged, haphazard way in which his administration responded is a clear sign that he, and the rest of the people responsible, don’t give a flying fuck about black people. It’s the same lack of giving a fuck that makes 3,000 New Yorkers worth starting a war (two wars, really), but the hundreds of thousands of genocide victims in Sudan barely worth a ‘meh’.
I don’t think Mr. Bush is any more evil or racist than anyone else on the whole, he just believes in his own non-racism more deeply than someone like me does. He refuses to be self-critical about his motives when it comes to racial disparities, so convinced is he that he could not possibly be racist. And when his clearly-racist actions are identified as such, he retreats into the role of the victim – how dare he call me racist! The mature response to an accusation like that is to defend your position, but at the same time try and understand where the accusation is coming from. Kanye was spot on in his description, and if Mr. Bush had spent 2 seconds thinking about it, he’d see that too.
But of course, the word racism immediately shuts down rational thought (insert ‘George W. Bush is stupid’ joke here), and all parties try to climb the highest tree to avoid getting splashed by the racism floodwater (perhaps a tasteless allusion). Once we can discuss racism as a phenomenon and not a damming character trait, we can start to address it, and in that way improve the climate.
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