Africa And Aboriginal Tuesdays: George Bush's Goree Island Speech: Truth or Hypocrisy? by Bakari Akil II

The speech given by George Bush on Goree Island, Senegal is something that is beyond belief. What is highly puzzling to me is the fact that someone whose actions are the exact opposite of the ideals of democracy, fairness and ethical behavior is continuously given a pass to commit verbal hypocrisy.

We already know he uses speechwriters as all presidents do. Second, from the content and tone of the speech it is easy to figure out that Mr. Bush and his handlers brought in some heavy hitters who were thoroughly familiar with the history and experience of Africans and African Americans. In fact, I had to ask myself, is this George Bush or Frederick Douglas?

What amazes me as I watch this man from his ascendancy to power, his theft of the presidency, his responses to "911", the war with Iraq and now his whirlwind tour of Africa and the potential US involvement in Liberia is that underneath it all I know that what he says is usually the opposite of what he means.

For this man to give a patronizing speech on the ISLAND OF NO RETURN, where Africans now African Americans, Brazilians, Afro-Caribbeans, etc., had to give away their culture, freedoms, respect and human dignity is beyond a travesty of justice, it has stepped into the realm of the twilight zone. I ask myself constantly; does anybody see what is going on? Does anyone care?

In his speech, Bush cited the horrors of the middle passage, the shame of the auction block and the degradation and terror Africans experienced during and after slavery. He extolled on the many virtues of Africans in America, as he or his speechwriters put it, and how African Americans have helped maintain the moral fabric of the US.

Mr. Bush dropped names such as Olaudah Equiano, Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DeBois and Martin Luther King as if he just received a degree in African American studies from Morehouse College.

If it had been a different circumstance and individual I would have exclaimed that he took the Senegalese audience to "church" when he gave this speech. However, I know better.

The Truth

George Bush, while running for office claimed that Africa would be a low priority for his administration and that he would not have intervened in the genocide that occurred in Rwanda. However, since he has reached office he has met with 22 African heads of state. (Washington Post, 2003) Why the reversal and interest!

This is a man whose execution records as governor of the State of Texas are abominable and the people executed have been disproportionately Black. Those same "Africans in America" he respects so much. Further, for a man so interested in justice and moving the nation towards such idealistic standards it seems that he had no problem with the disenfranchisement of African Americans in Florida, which helped award him his presidency.

Here is a man who has refused to meet the Congressional Black Caucus since he became President and has relegated them to a position of having to hold press conferences whenever they want him or his administration to understand how they or their constituencies feel.

Here is a man who has issued his administrations' displeasure with affirmative action on Martin Luther King's birthday and is now trying to set up measures to destroy the Headstart program that has helped tens of thousands of children since the Johnson administration. He claims he wants to move the program towards excellence but by giving states the right to fund Headstart how they see fit and allowing religious groups to decide whom they can hire based on religion he would create an atmosphere for failure; and he knows it.

George Bush is not respected and trusted by most "Africans in America" and at the same time feared due to his tactics to become President, his record as president, his father's record as Vice-President and President and his potential for future misdeeds.

Bush's speech at Goree Island is a feel good speech. He does not now or never will have a concern or respect for Black communities, here in the United States or abroad. If he displays disrespect and disdain for the Black population in the US, why would he have a greater concern for a Ugandan, South African or Nigerian?

Let's be honest, the US is an oil dependent economy and the ongoing turmoil in Iraq and Afghanistan is turning out to be more difficult than expected. The easy victory the US expected over both countries' forces has instead turned from conventional to guerilla warfare with Vietnam-like implications. In these countries, it will become increasingly difficult to find safe access to oil.

Hence, Africa with its regional instabilities, weak economies, lack of infrastructure (in certain areas), relatively weak militaries and rich mineral wealth, are a better target for sustaining oil and resource revenues. Africa is a US national interest! It has been said by Bush, Rice, Powell, Rumsfield and Wolfowitz. It is not a national interest because of the love the US has for Africa.

Bush was not there for a photo-op or for a better chance to be re-elected. He doesn't need the Black vote or anyone else's vote if you think about it (See 2000 Election). He was not there to "fight" AIDS or to rub noses with African leaders. He went there to further the same interests he and his "administration" have in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I'm not fooled by his words or his Speech Pimp Game. I hope I'm not the only one!

Bakari Akil is an editor for Global Black News and can be reached at

Tuesday, July 22, 2003