Black Americans Wary of Bush

Although he calls himself compassionate and inclusive, George W. Bush has not made any headway with African-Americans.

“We did not hear our voice being spoken, or our words, or our desires being articulated by the Republican candidate, now president-elect,” says Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas.

Mistakes During the Campaign

Black voters are quick to point out things Bush did during the campaign they say show he was not really serious about winning their allegiance. They cite examples like his choice to speak at Bob Jones University, which forbids interracial dating; his refusal to take a stand when South Carolina flew the Confederate flag over its state capitol; and the fact that he authorized the execution of more convicts — many of them black — than any other governor in the country. On top of all that, Bush is also opposed to affirmative action, the policy many blacks say is responsible for their advancement in society.

“When you come down on the wrong side of the death penalty question, when you come down on the wrong side of the affirmative action question, when you come down on the wrong side of the education question…there clearly is a divide between what Mr. Bush thinks is best for black America, and what black America thinks is best for itself.” Tavis Smiley, a host on Black Entertainment Television (BET).

Nine out of 10 African-Americans voted for Gore, and most black voters say there is nothing Bush did during the campaign or in the days since which shows he has their interest at heart.

Cabinet Appointments Don’t Change Things

Bush’s first appointments to powerful administration jobs were blacks — Colin Powell as the secretary of state and Condoleezza Rice as national security adviser — but it doesn’t seem to change opinions.

“We are not foolish people and we know he is using them as tokens,” says one woman.

Another man comments, “it isn’t what people he puts in there. The issue is the policies.”

Even in Bush’s home state of Texas, only 5 percent of black voters — fewer than anywhere else — voted for their two-term governor. Among other things, they objected to Bush’ handling of the dragging death of James Byrd in Jasper.

Most African-Americans are simply worried about what the next four years will bring; their biggest fear is that under President Bush, they will lose what they gained under President Clinton.