For some odd reason (more on this later), the folks in positions of authority at Hampton University saw fit to erect a state of George H.W. Bush on the storied campus in Hampton, Va. Two things of note here: 1) George H.W. Bush did not go to Hampton; and 2) Hampton is an HBCU, or historically black college or university. I mostly bring up the second point since, well, it’s true and because most of our HBCUs tend to focus on the contributions of the black folks involved in some way, shape or form with the growth and evolution of the institution when honoring individuals.
To my knowledge, the late former president George H.W. Bush wasn’t directly involved in the growth or evolution of the institution specifically (more on this later). He did give the commencement address in 1991, which makes the first point more important. If this dude, who, by most measures, didn’t do much of shit for Hampton University, in particular, and didn’t attend the institution, why the fuck would there be something so permanent and grand as a statute on Hampton’s campus of all places. Luckily, we have answers!
Here’s the word from the president of Hampton University, Dr. William R. Harvey:
“I believe in giving people their credit when it is due,” Hampton’s President Dr. William R. Harvey said in December. “President Bush was not only a good friend of mine, but he was an extraordinary person who believed it was crucial that African Americans have access to education. I think that’s something that we must acknowledge.”
Well, gotdamn. He’s the homie AND he believes black folks should learn. Low, low bar here, but OK. The United Negro College Fund also released a statement:
“George H.W. Bush was fully committed to UNCF’s mission to increase the number of African American college graduates and to preserve Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).”
Boy, these niggas and their low bars, I swear. But you know what, maybe I’m being unfair. Who else is honored in Hampton’s Legacy Park (where the statue is erected): Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, William Howard Taft (more on him later), Barack Obama, Mary Jackson, Susan B. LaFlesche, Frederick Douglass, Mary Peake, Jerome Holland and Reuben Burrell. So everybody either attended Hampton, contributed heavily to Hampton or kind of changed the game. Some did all three. William Howard Taft, a former president of the United States is also on this list. Hmm, I wonder what he did:
William Howard Taft: While serving as president of the United States and later chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, President Taft was the president of the Hampton University Board of Trustees. During this time, he was very influential in securing federal support for Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. The Board of Trustees were so pleased with his support and contributions that they named a bedroom in the Mansion House in his honor. The William Howard Taft Room in the Mansion House is still utilized as a bedroom for distinguished visitors. President Taft served on the board from 1909 until his death in 1930.
I’d call that ... instrumental. So let’s see, what are the qualifications for Bush 41 (interestingly enough, this is the most lengthy bio on their news release):
George H. W. Bush: an American politician who served as the 41st president of the United States from 1989 to 1993. Prior to assuming the presidency, Bush served as the 43rd vice president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. His earlier posts included those of congressman, ambassador, and CIA director. President Bush demonstrated a long-standing support of Historically Black Colleges and Universities over his career. Aside from delivering the 1991 Commencement address at Hampton University, President Bush founded the United Negro College Fund chapter at Yale University during his college days. As president, he continued his overwhelmingly positive support for Black Colleges with initiatives such as appointing 23 individuals to the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities to advise him and the Secretary of Education on ways to strengthen the HBCUs; directed the Office of Personnel Management, in conjunction with the Secretaries of Labor and Education, to develop a program to improve the recruitment of graduate, and undergraduate HBCU students for part-time and summer federal positions; and signed Executive Order 12677, which directed 27 agencies to increase the opportunities for the participation of HBCUs in federal programs. Increases in total funding over the fiscal years 1989 award levels were reported by most of these agencies. HBCUs received a total of $776 million in fiscal year 1989 and $894 million in fiscal year 1990, an increase of $118 million dollars. Under the Bush Administration, Hampton University alone received unparalleled support for strengthening its programs and improving its facilities. Under the Title III Program alone, salary supplements, scholarship support and the acquisition of instructional and research equipment were received.
Well, I’ll be John Brown, it does look like he supported HBCUs fairly substantively. That’s nice and thanks, Big Homie. But his only tie to Hampton in particular is ... he was the commencement speaker? Unparalleled support? Funding increases as part of HBCU-wide increases? That shit gets him a whole ass statue? Does he then deserve a statue on every HBCU campus?
Not to mention he had a bit of a tenuous racial history. According to niggas that know things, like Jesse Jackson, he apparently regretted many of the questionable decisions that fell along race lines like speaking out against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and constantly referencing Willie Horton in his campaign speeches (Horton was used as a political tool to stoke white fears about criminal justice against Michael Dukakis, whom he defeated in the presidential race in 1988.) Again, he allegedly regretted those things, but he did them.
Look, it’s Hampton’s prerogative to put whatever white man they want on their campus, no matter how much of a reach it is in terms of actual connection to the university, it is Hampton’s circus and shit. And people have a right to protest that unveiling considering how significant the contributions are of the others who are included and other seemingly more worthy folks who aren’t included. Bush 41 is random no matter what, and Hampton’s board ought to be ashamed of itself for just throwing this white man on campus, pretending like he was specifically important to the school.
But the biggest reason they should have chilled the fuck out is that Howard would never do something so damn dumb and take precious space that could be used for somebody who actually DID matter to the school specifically; now they have NEW reasons to shit all over Hampton University, except now with the support of those of us who really have no dog in the fight. Hampton can’t be “the real HU” if their administration is making decisions like this. Now Howard can always and forever be like, “Well, at least we don’t have a random-ass statue of a white man who did nothing for the school on our campus because he was the school president’s friend.”
Howard: Infinity, Hampton: Just lost one. One.