Bush: Colorblind or just blind
At the age of 5 in the racially-tense South, I wasn’t yet aware that the color of someone’s skin made a difference in how they were treated in this world. I had two best friends, Trisha and Alice. Trisha was a tiny black girl with a rainbow of beads in her hair, Alice was a funny blonde with blue eyes, and I was a clumsy brunette with thick glasses. We sat together in class and swung together at recess.As I got into middle and high school, the division just sort of happened on its own. The black kids all sat together on the same bleacher in the gym during pep rallies. The white kids took up the other 12 bleachers.Like that 5-year-old, Hurricane Katrina didn’t see race. It brought horrible devastation and destruction to everyone in the Gulf region, but some people believe that the government did take race into account when coming to the rescue.
“George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” rapper Kanye West asserted during an NBC telethon for Hurricane Katrina survivors. Is he right, or is he trying to sell records?A recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll suggests he’s not the only one who feels that way.Six out of 10 African-Americans said one reason the federal government’s efforts weren’t expedited was because most of the hurricane victims were poor and black. However, whites who responded to the survey didn’t see it the same way – nearly nine out of 10 said race and economic status had nothing to do with it.Why the racial divide?I’m not going to pull a Rodney King “Why can’t we all just get along?” but it just feels a little ridiculous for race to still be an issue in 2005 – especially during a disaster of these proportions.
I’m also not going to pretend that I’m blind to the fact that race isn’t an issue. Although in Summit County we don’t have much of an African-American population, I’ve seen what racial tensions can do to a community. While driving home from Atlanta City Hall every day, I used to see black teenagers getting stopped by officers while biking or walking down the street. Black teens and adults up against a car getting handcuffed. Or on the ground outside a building. Maybe they did something, maybe they didn’t. But the widespread visibility of it wasn’t helping the climate. Trying to escape that tension is one of the many reasons I moved here.I just feel like that if I, a twenty-something, white woman who’s not impoverished, was standing in the middle of the crowd waiting for help during the hurricane, the government wouldn’t leave me stranded there. I haven’t seen any faces like mine in all the photos and video from New Orleans.”To the extent the federal government didn’t fully do its job right, I take responsibility,” Bush said Tuesday.
So, he’s taking the blame, but now what? Will these people feel like George Bush really does care about them? And even if they do, will this ease racial tension in our country?And it’s not just Bush that isn’t part of the racial solution. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, in the 2000 presidential election, 1.9 million Americans cast ballots that weren’t counted, and about a million of them were cast by African-Americans. Coincidence? Perhaps, but an awfully shady one if you ask me.Maybe someday we’ll all be able to sit on the same bleacher together, but I wouldn’t look for it to happen soon.Jennifer Harper’s column runs on Wednesdays. She can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 248, or at email@example.com.
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