Seven months into his second term as President, we were all sure that “George Bush does not care about Black people.” Back when Kanye still made music for Black people who loved being Black people and wasn’t trying to convince us that he was just a white man trapped in a Black man’s body, we all cheered watching him call out the then President of the United States for his inept, callous and intentional neglect of the overwhelmingly Black victims of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. As Black people, American citizens on American soil, starved and drowned in flood waters, “the president of the United States played guitar in San Diego.”
Then in 2015, the former President and his wife attended a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the day the epic storm washed away the Crescent City, leaving people stranded on roofs, and claiming the lives and bodies of many still unaccounted for. When coverage of the event surfaced, a group photo of Bush surrounded by nearly a dozen Black high school students whose smiles revealed their glee was plastered all over the internet. The amnesia had set in and Bush was on his way to becoming the problematic but affable ex-President.
Since then, and partially owing to the meteoric rise of Donald Trump from reality star to overtly racist, sexist and completely incompetent POTUS, Bush has been upgraded from the tyrannical warmonger who resigned thousands of Americans to whatever fate during one of the most catastrophic natural disasters in history to a mild-mannered, adorable painter who just happens to be the former Commander-in-Chief. That same spirit of preferring smiling tyrants that has made Bush seem “not so bad” lead us to believe that the familiarity and relatability of the Black faces that occupied the White House for eight years meant that we had friends in high places. We’ve been victim of the greatest PR campaign in history forgetting, or perhaps never knowing, that the price for admission to the oligarchy is an incorruptible allegiance to the same principles of imperialism, despotism, racism and violence that we foolishly believed a Black POTUS would counter.
If nothing else, the Obamas have flawlessly exhibited their allegiance to American ideals. From Barack Obama’s tepid response to anti-Black mob violence to Michelle Obama’s dog whistle instruction to the negroes that “when they go low, we go high,” the former POTUS and FLOTUS have made it clear that they are not so much powerful Black Americans as they are powerful Americans who happen to be Black. It makes absolute since, then, that Michelle Obama would be able to maintain an affectionate friendship with George W. Bush, political differences aside.
“So he is my partner in crime…,” the former First Lady gushed over the man who started a war — one in which more than half a million people have died — over claims that are at least unverified and at most outright lies. “I love him to death,” she continued of the man that plunged us into a recession that, as is always the case, disproportionately affected the very Black voters who voted almost unanimously for her husband both times. While this friendship has been framed and lauded as an unlikely bond between two people seemingly opposite in every way, it is neither unlikely nor worthy of celebration.
The consuming, crippling racism that devours Black people has long been just a memory for Michelle Obama, with the Obamas earning nearly $1 million in combined income as early as 2006. The Obamas each practiced law at one of the premiere law firms in this country, and each also served in public positions prior to Mr. Obama’s election as center. Plainly: They been had juice.
Ergo, Bush’s disastrous economic policies could not devastate them the way they did regular Black folks. Sitting with her then Senator husband, Mrs. Obama was unaffected by the war. Once you have conquered the summit of power, Blackness becomes peripheral. Protected by the Secret Service, insulated by capital and elevated by public opinion, Michelle Obama ain’t one of us. She’s one of them.
Whatever kinship we assigned Michelle Obama to feed our desperation for representation aside, and however much we look at her and see ourselves, our aunties, sisters and mothers, Mrs. Obama is not and was never our FLOTUS. Her husband was selected and elected by the American fantasy that hard work and dedication have the ultimate say in our fates, ignoring, or at least diminishing the systemic disenfranchisement that literally kills Black people. Barack and Michelle Obama soothe white ego, tucking in the white liberal masses at night to lullabies of a post racial society within our grasp.
And the facade of two vastly opposed political parties, one inherently good committed to fighting the good fight to derail the grand ol’ party’s mission of maintaining the status quo, is done. We now know, or at least we should, that any differences in policy between the two parties is negligible as it relates to the safety, security and redemption of Black people. Elephant or donkey, they’re still shitting in our yards and stand on the shovels.
So Mrs. Obama and Bush aren’t some radically different souls who struck up a genuine friendship through mutual love and respect. They’re two of the most powerful people in the world who have nothing to lose by hugging and passing candy. They’re giants standing on the same shoulders. They’re the oligarchists of the oligarchy cozying up in their shared protection from the storms they create.