Why Barbara Bush’s Death Shouldn’t Erase Her History of Gross Entitlement
Former First Lady Barbara Bush recently passed away at the ripe old age of 92 — and her death has expectedly garnered responses from dignitaries both at home and abroad — as well as political and agency players from past and present.
My reaction to Mrs. H.W. Bush’s passing is respectfully guarded as I never experienced the level of impact she supposedly exacted during her short tenure as first lady — neither did I witness her infectious graciousness or benefit from any of her marked initiatives.
As social media accommodates the breaking news item with the usual tendency to illustrate the many reasons why we stay defiantly divided — I stumbled upon a tweet from the Women’s March account that was “retweeted with comment” — in an effort to highlight the user’s displeasure.
It didn’t take long for the virus to spread as more and more brave souls are still sharing their views — in the hopes that their allegiance to the late matriarch of the Bush dynasty will overwhelm the cries of naysayers — who are convinced that they’re taking the most reasonable stance they can afford — considering the controversial legacy of the family in question.
Yes — it’s quite messed up that the twitter account of an organization — that based on the symbolic branding — purports to be for ALL WOMEN — took the liberty to endorse the conveniently flawless messaging of a woman whose death is summoning mixed testimonies (mostly lovely) about her overall character and code of conduct.
For those who don’t get the outrage over this sudden outpouring of admiration for Barbara Bush — perhaps you weren’t born when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans with terrific fury — back in 2005.
Or maybe you were fully aware of the event that swiftly became a national tragedy of grand proportions — but because you were immune to the images of Black bodies trapped on rooftops or floating with bloated bellies under the fiery sun — you’re able to be selectively recollective.
As a Black person in America — who actually grew up in Nigeria — a country that is known for historically torturing its citizens with evidence of how little we matter — I was beyond astounded and terrified at the level of gross negligence that was assigned to American citizens — simply because of their skin color and less than fortunate status.
The whole world was watching with eyes wide open — and the general consensus matched Kanye’s sentiment when he declared on national television — during A Concert For Hurricane Relief that:
“George Bush doesn’t care about Black people”
I’ve watched my fair share of documentaries about Hurricane Katrina — and if you’re interested — Spike Lee’s When The Levees Broke is the only one you need — if being able to absorb the raw deal of how the city of NOLA became a cesspool of disease — death — and devastation after the dire consequences of what was initially predicted — and unleashed — is your mission.
My memory of that dreadful period in our history is shrouded in the earliest recognition and acceptance of how very little Black Lives Matter in America.
President George Bush — the son of former president George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush — evoked a similar laid back and lackluster temperament that President Trump has steadfastly displayed towards another recent national disaster — Hurricane Maria — which still continues to leave disadvantaged Puerto Ricans in the dark with no formal end date.
Barbara Bush managed to visit with the mostly Black refugees of the hurricane — and her activities were well-documented — right down to the callous statement she made — regarding the desperation of the survivors — who were lodging in the Houston Astrodome:
“Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them,” Mrs. Bush told American Public Media’s “Marketplace” program, before returning to her multi-million dollar Houston home.
Social media was missing back then — but the news cycle gave those awful words the full attention that was needed to support the messiness — that ensues when White privilege collides with unfamiliar territory in ways that prove why the system was conceived on the basis of inequality.
In Barbara Bush’s summation — the poor Black people — who just went through the unfathomable were not only threatening to clog up her city with their diseased and woefully hapless dispositions — but they also needed to be gratified by their plush surroundings — since it was a remarkable step up from their former shacks.
The image of a stately — wealthy White lady — casually surveying the stacked up Black bodies — dominating a space that served as the only place they could call “home” until assigned agencies eventually got off their asses to save them — made her misguided conclusions — memorably offensive.
This is exactly why Barbara Bush’s death shouldn’t erase her history of gross entitlement.
There’s no doubt that she played her roles of first lady and first mother with stoic loyalty to the two men she willingly gave this country. And during her active years — she even managed to work her way to being defined as a “literacy campaigner.”
But — for Black people who are aware of the weightiness of their Blackness — she will always be remembered for the way she used her privilege to shame and demean Black victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Her death can’t erase her damning words or pretty up the way she withheld her empathy towards the downtrodden at a time when she was needed the most.
Hurricane Katrina was an ugly period — and instead of providing comfort and assurances — Barbara Bush chose to minimize the catastrophic residue of what Mother Nature had wrought on a people that she evidently deemed “less than human.”
In light of her passing — we can try to forgive — but don’t expect us to forget.