Politics Mondays: President George W. Bush Goes Where Black Politicians, Preachers, and Intellectuals Won’t
During NBC news anchorman Brian Williams’ exclusive interview with President George W. Bush, there was a brief exchange between the two men that caught my attention, but one that thus far does not seem to have garnered the same from Black, alternative, and mainstream media. Here is that portion of the interview (boldface emphasis is mine):
Williams: What about this widely held perception in New Orleans that the federal government somehow played a role in the blowing of the levees? So many people believe that now. Does that break your heart that that exists?
President Bush: Yeah, I've heard that. And when I went to one of the shelters, I remember one of the ladies saying to me and Governor Blanco, "You know, why did the federal government, or why did government, blow this up?" And I said, "Ma'am, I really can assure you it didn't happen." But yet there's a perception, particularly in the Ninth Ward, that that's the case.
Williams: What do you do about that?
President Bush: You just try to tell the truth. You know, it was really interesting. If you read the book about the great flood in the late '20s, the levees were breached in order to save New Orleans. And so maybe that's part of why people are thinking that way. It just didn't happen. And I'm so sorry people feel that way, because one of the things that's important is for people to trust, you know, the government. And if they thought that the government had helped destroy their lives, then obviously there would be no trust.
Interesting. Here was the President of the United States openly acknowledging that in the 1920s, the levees were intentionally destroyed, and he was mentioning the fact that this information was in a book.
For those who are unaware, it has been widely reported that President George W. Bush, around the time of Hurricane Katrina, was reading the book , "Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America by John M. Barry. This book, according to many experts, is the most respected on the historical subject of the politics of floods, and the construction and destruction of levees in New Orleans and the Gulf Area.
When Minister Louis Farrakhan offered his hypothesis that the levees may have been intentionally breached in order to save one part of New Orleans at the expense of another, many people scoffed, mocked and dismissed his suggestion. Many of these individuals were those who have never liked or understood him. Their reaction was to be expected. I noticed this type of response to what the Minister put forth, but I was far more interested in the response to what he presented, by Blacks, and those who say they love him, respect him, or were sympathetic to him. I was struck by the lack of scholarship and the poor dialogue among the more learned of this second group, regarding what Minister Farrakhan was saying. I especially noted how virtually no one, it seemed, knew how to defend or present a basis for what he put forth. To be sure, there were a couple of Black journalists who went as far as to say that among the masses, Minister Farrakhan’s view was widely held, but no one, to my knowledge, at that time, on significant, visible and influential public platforms, went as far as to argue that there absolutely was a historical basis for what the National Representative of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam was suggesting.
And although Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson stated openly that ‘reasonable’ and ‘sober’ Blacks in New Orleans believed that it was possible that the levees were intentionally destroyed; and Baltimore Sun and Black America Web columnist Gregory Kane openly speculated that the racism that causes Black evacuees to be mistreated could also make individuals capable of destroying levees (he even called for a commission to be set up to investigate what caused the levees to fail); it was only we, at BlackElectorate.com, it seemed, that were willing to offer - in detail- a detailed historical basis for the hypothesis and theory.
We wrote about it in great detail, excerpting several pages from Rising Tide, in an effort to disseminate as widely as possible, ‘food for thought’ regarding the controversy over Minister Farrakhan’s statements. We presented that information on October 3, 2005 in "The Intentional Destruction Of Levees In New Orleans – A Conspiracy Theory? Not In The Light Of History." Before that, we wrote about other aspects to support a reasonable basis for considering Minister Farrakhan’s point of view. That information is contained in two writings, "E-Letter To Mike Dunne and The Advocate Re: 'LSU Storm Expert Rejects Levee Failure Explanation,'" September 26, 2005; and an article dated, September 21,2005, "E-Letter To Daniel Machalaba and The Wall St. Journal Re: ‘Still Unknown: Did Barge Strike Levee?’"
What is it that makes many otherwise courageous, open-minded and articulate Black preachers, politicians, and intellectuals unwilling or ‘unable’ to discuss the basis for thinking that it is possible that the levees in New Orleans were intentionally destroyed? To this day, I have yet to hear a leading Black intellectual, preacher or politician openly state that the levees were blown up in 1927, yet this information is clearly explained and unambiguously documented, in John M. Barry’s book (by our count, the subject matter accounts for at least 75 pages of "Rising Tide"’s contents.)
What makes Minister Farrakhan different, in this area, than these preachers, politicians, and intellectuals?
And what makes President George W. Bush able to publicly state – from the perspective of history - why such thinking is understandable?
Until these questions are thoroughly and honestly answered by both the masses and most learned of Black people, there will remain serious doubts and questions regarding how much unity and progress we can make as a people – in response to Katrina or any other major challenge that faces us. If the thinking of Black people is caged, how can the ‘solutions’ that thinking produces have the power to free or liberate?
Minister Louis Farrakhan’s teacher, The Honorable Elijah Muhammad did write and state, repeatedly, that two of the greatest forces hindering the unity and progress of Black people were fear and ignorance.
Sadly, we saw too much of these destructive forces at work, in the hearts and minds of Black leaders, juxtaposed to handling the question of how and why the levees broke in New Orleans.
Perhaps, now that the ‘most powerful White man’ in America says there is something historically legitimate to the belief in a supposed ‘conspiracy theory’, Blacks will replace fear and ignorance with courage and knowledge.
And if President George W. Bush’s political ideology is an issue, we are sure we could probably find a White Progressive or Liberal saying the same thing as this President, before we could find a Black one.
For too many Blacks it is not ‘Right,’ ‘Center,’ or ‘Left’ or even the historical record that makes something legitimate or true, but rather, whether or not White people define it as such.
In that sick way, hopefully President Bush can help Blacks, after all.
Monday, December 19, 2005