The Guardian July 26, 2000


African Americans blast Bush

by Tim Wheeler

An hour before Texas Governor George W Bush spoke to the 91st Convention of 
the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in 
Maryland, a delegate from Texas, Senfronia Thompson. denounced him to the 
press for blocking a Bill to outlaw hate crimes in the State.

Thompson told a news conference that she arranged a meeting of the family 
of James Byrd Jr with Bush in his Austin office soon after Byrd was 
lynched.

Byrd was dragged to death behind a utility truck by three white racists 
outside Jasper, Texas in June 1998. "There are 23 hate groups with 
headquarters in Jasper", Thompson said.

Polls showed that 80 percent of Texans supported a hate crimes law, she 
said. "But when James Byrd's relatives met with Bush, he said he would not 
support the law and dismissed them from his office."

Thompson told the People's Weekly World that Bush's explanation was 
that he would not support the Bill's inclusion of attacks on gays and 
lesbians as hate crimes.

Bush had sidestepped the issue of lynchings in his own State by claiming 
that "all crimes are hate crimes" and, therefore, no special laws are 
needed to combat violent assaults instigated by racism, anti-Semitism or 
homophobia.

Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from Texas in the US House of 
Representatives, said Texas has 1.4 million children without medical 
insurance protection, the highest rate in the nation. She also cited a 
federal report that Texas has the highest rate of child hunger and 
malnutrition.

Bush's response was that he knew nothing of child hunger. "That's another 
example of him not even caring enough to learn the facts of hunger in his 
own state", Johnson said. "We have gone backward under him. Our environment 
is so bad that Oklahoma is complaining."

Several candidates were scheduled to speak at the five-day convention that 
attracted as many as 10,000 delegates and guests to the Baltimore 
Convention Centre, including Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, 
Green Party nominee Ralph Nader and New York Senate candidate Hillary 
Clinton.

The theme of the gathering was "Race to Vote" as the nation's largest and 
oldest civil rights organisation seeks to register four million new voters. 
So far, the drive has enrolled three million new voters.

Bush was silent on the race and class discrimination in the death penalty, 
which he has imposed 133 times, more than any other governor. But he 
promised to make enforcement of civil rights laws the "cornerstone of my 
administration".

He echoed his father's "thousand points of light" in calling on churches to 
provide charity in place of government social welfare programs. He touted 
his private school voucher scheme and his plan to privatise Social 
Security.

"I believe in private property so strongly that I want everybody to have 
some", he said.

An hour or so later, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters drew applause 
and cheers with a biting rebuttal. "They are killing a whole lot of people 
down in Texas.

"Did we hear anything from Governor Bush about a death penalty moratorium? 
About funds to provide credible legal representation for those facing the 
death penalty?"

Outside the ballroom, the Reverend Wendell Anthony, President of the 
22,000-member Detroit NAACP, angrily assailed Bush's speech. "It was an 
insult", he told the People's Weekly World.

"I am the pastor of a church. We have charitable programs to assist our 
members but it is simply not enough.

"It cannot take the place of government social assistance programs. There 
must be an urban strategy and Bush did not present one."

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People's Weekly World

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