George II, out on the hustings promoting his new book, Decision Points (previewed here and here), has told Matt Lauer of NBC that the “all-time low” of his presidency was achieved when Kanye West, in the midst of a September 2005 fundraiser for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, spoke truth on national television: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
“Yes. My record was strong, I felt, when it came to race re-lations and giving people a chance. And—it was a disgusting moment,” Bush responded[.]
Further spake George:
“It was one of the most disgusting moments in my Presidency. He called me a racist. I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now. It’s one thing to say, ‘I don’t appreciate the way he’s handled his business.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘This man’s a racist.’ I resent it, it’s not true.”
Oh, but it is true. And you know it. And that is why West’s words grieve you so, still. Because they’re true.
Lisa de Moraes of the Washington Post recalls West’s moment:
West and actor Mike Myers had been paired to appear about halfway through the show. Their assignment: Take turns reading a script describing the breach in the levees around New Orleans.
Myers: “The landscape of the city has changed dramatically, tragically and perhaps irreversibly. There is now over 25 feet of water where there was once city streets and thriving neighborhoods.” Myers threw it to West, who looked extremely nervous in a super-preppy designer rugby shirt and white pants.
West: “I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, ‘They’re looting.’ You see a white family, it says, ‘They’re looking for food.’ And, you know, it’s been five days [waiting for federal help] because most of the people are black . . . . And even for me to complain about it, I would be a hypocrite because I’ve tried to turn away from the TV because it’s too hard to watch. I’ve even been shopping before even giving a donation, so now I’m calling my business manager right now to see what is the biggest amount I can give . . . . We already realize a lot of people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way—and they’ve given them permission to go down and shoot us!”
West threw it back to Myers, who looked like a guy who stopped on the tarmac to tie his shoe and got hit in the back with the 8:30 to LaGuardia.
Myers: “And subtle, but in many ways even more profoundly devastating, is the lasting damage to the survivors’ will to rebuild and remain in the area. The destruction of the spirit of the people of southern Louisiana and Mississippi may end up being the most tragic loss of all.”
And then, because Myers is apparently as dumb as his Alfalfa hair, he threw it back to West.
West: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people!”
Lauer, in the interview, becomes but the first of many people to wonder why, in view of all the many disasters of the George II presidency, the man himself would identify West’s seven words on television as the “worst moment” of his presidency, and why he would be more aggrieved about something that was said about him, than about what happened to the human beings who suffered in the wake of Katrina, and on his watch.
“You remember what he said?” Lauer asked.
“Yes, I do. He called me a racist,” Bush responded.
“Well, what he said: ‘George Bush doesn’t care about black people,’” Lauer corrected Bush.
Lauer began to wonder whether some people, reading the passage in Bush’s new book in which he writes that West’s comment was the “worst moment” of his presidency, “might give you some heat for that. And the reason is this—”
“Don’t care,” Bush snapped.
“Well, here’s the reason,” Lauer persevered. “You’re not saying that the worst moment in your presidency was watching the misery in Louisiana. You’re saying it was when someone insulted you because of that.”
George II here responds absolutely identically to the pale frail boys and girls at that bastion of blind white privilege, the Daily Racist, who will immediately commence the St. Vitus Dance whenever it is pointed out that they deny, enable, or actively engage in racism.
In that putatively “progressive” sea of white, just as in the mind of George II—and in the Republican Party, and in the rightwing media, and amongst the teabaggers—identifying racism is always a worse sin than the racism itself. And for the same reason. Because they know that what is said is true. And they know that out-racism is no longer socially acceptable. And that therefore they have to try to hide it. And, above all, to deny it.
As it was denied by Ronald Reagan, a stone racist who would not even live in the California governor’s mansion, because there were too many black people in the neighborhood.
This is a man who, smirking and winking, kicked off his 1980 presidential campaign by proclaiming in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the town where in 1963 three civil-rights workers were kidnapped, tortured, slain, and buried in a dam, that “I believe in states’ rights”—thereby signaling to the pissant peckerwoods of this great racist nation that if only they voted for him, happy days, for them, would be here again. And they did. And they were.
Yet, like George II, Ronald Racist Reagan too said that what grieved him most were accusations that he was a racist. As Garry Wills recounts, Reagan would always respond, hurt, to such a charge, with a heart-warming story about his allegiance to a black player on his football team . . . a story that, as Wills also recounts, was, like most everything else to flow out of that man’s mouth, shit that was just made up.
People in the hip-hop blogging world were quick to react to George II’s denunciation of West’s seven words as the most “disgusting” moment of his presidency.
Timmhotep Aku, editor of TheBVX,com: “When I think of disgusting moments during the George Dubya Bush presidency I think of wild WMD goose chases, a war in Iraq, the World Trade Center attack on 9/11, the economic downturn, unemployment rising and poor people getting poorer and the wealthy getting wealthier, not Kanye West’s comment. George Jr. needs to get his priorities straight. And if he were really that outraged he’d have gone out of his way to prove Kanye wrong. But, like he responded to Matt Lauer when asked about the statement and getting heat for it, he ‘don’t care.’”
Andreas Hale, editor-in-chief of TheWellVersed.com: “Bush mentioning Kanye today does nothing but help him promote My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and make Bush look like a crybaby. As for Bush being disgusted with Kanye calling him a racist? I think G.W. is hard of hearing. Kanye said he doesn’t care about black people. But if the shoe fits . . . . ”
Kazeem Famuyide, online editor of The Source: “That quote, that completely idiotic quote, just wrapped a nice little bow on top of the crappy presidency that was George W. Bush. Blowing it on 9-11 when there were multiple warnings, watching thousands of bodies float away and die in New Orleans, that big-ass ‘Mission Accomplished’ spectacle, not finding Osama bin Laden, wasting money and lives in Iraq (stop me at any time) wasn’t the worst—it was a rapper saying you didn’t care about black people. That was his low point?”
Jake Paine, editor-in-chief of HipHopDX.com: “If only Bush-41 could have heard Chuck D, or Ronald Reagan could have heard Ice-T. What Kanye West did was meaningful to anybody who was angered by America’s leadership at that time, and it was a lot more poised than throwing a shoe.”
George II identifying West’s seven words as the “worst,” “most disgusting,” “all-time low” point of his presidency is dangerous. Because it will remind people of his government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Which was indeed the “worst,” “most disgusting,” “all-time low” point of his presidency. For therein was revealed the truth: that, as Kanye West said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” And the truth that he doesn’t care about people, period. Unless those people are the lucky few to be counted in his “base.”