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Africa and Aboriginal Tuesdays: Laura Bush in Africa Cites Poor Example of "Take it Slow" by Akbar Muhammad

In late May 2005, the First Lady Laura Bush made a five-day tour of a few Middle East countries and North Africa (Egypt). The statement that she made in Cairo, Egypt about the U.S. Constitution and slavery was comparable to one of President George W. Bush’s slip of the lip (a failure to engage the brain before he engages his mouth). In her reference to democracy in Egypt, Mrs. Bush stated that she agrees with the “go slow policy” of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak. According to an article in The New York Times printed Tuesday, May 24, 2005, in the World Briefing section (Page A13) it states, “Mrs. Bush told reporters that sometimes ‘you have to be slow’ in putting political freedoms into effect. ‘ You know that each step is a small step, that you can’t be quick,’ she said. ‘It’s not always wise to be,’ she said. She noted that the United States allowed slavery long after the Constitution was adopted.”

Then again, she told NBC television’s Today Show program referring to the U.S. Constitution, “We started off with a perfect document that didn’t abolish slavery until almost a hundred years later.” Her comments are oxymoronic in context. One of the examples of an oxymoron is cruel kindness. How can Mrs. Bush state that democracy should be slow when referring to the President of Egypt who America has backed and propped up for 24 years? President Mubarak has a sham election every three years, and he gets over 90% of the votes because no one is allowed to run against him from any of the opposition parties. America would call any president or head of state that has a system such as Egypt’s a dictator or a tyrant.

If what Mrs. Bush said on her trip to North Africa (Egypt) is true, then why didn’t America go gradually in Iraq? Why did the United States and Britain insist that democratic reform had to take place immediately? Again, she said that it took nearly 100 years after the U.S. Constitution to free the slaves. Congress finalized the U.S. Constitution September 17, 1787, and made it effective on March 4, 1789. It took 76 years after this before America abolished slavery. In a year and a half of reviewing this document, the founding fathers could not see the great wrong of slavery. By her calling the document perfect, it is an insult to the descendants of the millions of Africans who were held in bondage at that time. They were in the brutal and barbaric system of slavery, which was against everything that represented a civilized society. Was the First Lady Mrs. Bush saying that it was correct in going slow to free the slaves? Perhaps, this represents a southern point of view (Texas). It took 75 years after the Constitution was written for the Emancipation Proclamation to be issued by President Abraham Lincoln. He issued the Proclamation on September 22, 1862, and it went into effect on January 1, 1863. He issued it under the duress of a war that had split the Nation. Furthermore, it took an additional two years for the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, to become a part of a not so perfect document. The 13th Amendment, Section 1 states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The Amendment was proposed on January 31, 1865, and was ratified December 6, 1865.

Even though, the President freeing the slaves had issued a proclamation, it took the leaders of America almost one year to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The Civil War had been over since April 9, 1865, and yet, it took them until December of the same year to ratify something that should have been a given, freeing people who were in bondage. Mrs. Bush being a librarian and spending her time in books, I feel, is familiar with all of the above facts. Why would she use the example of slavery in talking about “go slow?” This is as bad as President George W. Bush asking former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, “Do you have Blacks, too?” Most of the world knows that the largest population of Africans in the Diaspora is in Brazil.

Akbar Muhammad is the International Representative for the Nation of Islam and Minister Louis Farrakhan. After living in Ghana for 12 years and visiting 37 African countries, his focus is contemporary African history. Comments can be sent to

Akbar Muhammad

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

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