On Friday night, after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease and other ailments, our 41st president, George H.W. Bush, died in his Houston home. He was 94.
As tributes poured in over the weekend, he was celebrated for being “great in his character, leading with decency and integrity” according to House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Our beloved Barak Obama took to Twitter to honor him as a “patriot and humble servant” who was a “testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling.”
In a touching tribute published by the Washington Post, former president Bill Clinton described him as an “honorable, gracious and decent man who believed in the United States, our Constitution, our institutions and our shared future.”
“He also had a natural humanity,” Clinton wrote. “Always hoping with all his heart that others’ journeys would include some of the joy that his family, his service and his adventures gave him.”
But for people of color and other marginalized groups, in the immediate aftermath of our 41st president’s death, that humanity has come into question. As prior to his single term as commander-in-chief—he was denied a second term due in part to his disregard for domestic affairs—he complicated countless lives as a congressman, our vice president under Ronald Reagan, and as director of the CIA.
Over the course of these stints, he failed miserably at combating an AIDS epidemic that would steal over a 100,000 lives (“It’s one of the few diseases where behavior matters,” he snipped), he was a willing participant in the discriminatory War on Drugs, he became the paragon of dog whistle racism with his notorious Willie Horton ad, he vetoed the 1990 civil rights bill, and committed countless other acts that are much closer to heinous than “humane.”
So never short on receipts, social media became a sounding board for those eager to reflect on his questionable legacy.
As far as the irony of Bush dying on World AIDS Day?
And of course, there was plenty to be said about the War on
Black People Drugs:
And that Willie Horton ad?
While he only served a single term, it’s quite evident that the decisions Bush made and the policies he put in place still reverberate today. As such, the principles and interests he aligned with consistently jeopardized the lives of marginalized communities.
So in serving as our Commander-in-Chief, while its expected that many will celebrate his accomplishments, it’s equally as important not to turn a blind eye on his faults.