Jeb Bush’s Saying Blacks Want ‘Free Stuff’ for Votes Insults Our Dignity and History of Struggle

tags: racism, Black History

Peniel E. Joseph, a contributing editor at The Root, is founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy and a professor of history at Tufts University. He is the author of Waiting ’Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America, Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama and Stokely: A LifeFollow him on Twitter.

Jeb Bush’s recent comments in South Carolina about black people voting for Democrats who promise them “free stuff” during election season is a powerful reminder that a leading Republican presidential candidate is woefully ignorant about contemporary race relations and the history that’s shaped the racial-justice struggle....

Black Americans have been the hardest-working and least-rewarded group in American history. African-American rates of employment, income and wealth pale in comparison to those of whites, the result of a long and continuous history of institutional racism that Bush simply ignores.

Racial insensitivity is a Bush family trait. George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, defeated Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1988 by running the infamous Willie Horton ads that played upon national fears of black criminality and racial violence.

George W. Bush’s halting response to Hurricane Katrina inspired widespread criticism punctuated by Kanye West’s famous assertion that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.

Neither does his younger brother, apparently.

The most offensive part of Jeb Bush’s statement is that it’s rooted in a racist mythology about black folks that ignores our national history. Unpaid black labor literally built American and global capitalism. Slavery produced undreamed-of wealth that helped propel American financial, industrial and political institutions into undreamed-of power and privilege. African Americans were repaid for centuries of chattel slavery with Jim Crow segregation, lynching, imprisonment and poverty.

Jeb Bush’s statement perpetuates this tragic history through willful ignorance that casts black folks as an ignorant and lazy mass of people who are dependent on government largesse for their existence.

Bush and other Republican presidential hopefuls who’ve embraced a toxic message of racial intolerance robust enough to make Tea Party advocates and Birthers proud have touted this false narrative.

Such comments also serve as coded messages to white voters convinced that President Barack Obama’s entire presidency has both been illegitimate (by virtue of his supposedly being born in Kenya) and unfairly discriminated against the white populace by giving black folks special treatment....

Read entire article at The Root

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