In 2001, as Florida Gov. Jeb Bush touted several accomplishments in supporting Florida A&M University and state minorities, his positive job-approval rating among black Floridians continued to slide–reaching a dismal 8 percent.
It’s questionable whether Bush will ever convince most blacks he sincerely cares about them. During his 1994 gubernatorial campaign, he said he would do “probably nothing” for blacks.
In 1999, one of his first acts as governor was striking down affirmative action in Florida through the One Florida Initiative. Bush has never apologized for either action. Still, he expects blacks to trust his motivations.
In fairness to the governor, though, Famuans and all blacks should ask themselves: In politics, is it really that easy to tell whose motivations are sincere and whose are politically influenced?
The truth is–for sake of our survival, we don’t have the luxury of caring.
Take Sen. Bob Graham for example. As a state senator in the 1960s, Graham once vigorously championed merging FAMU with Florida State University. He backed off and changed his position after receiving intense heat from the black community.
Most blacks seem to have taken him at his word that his intentions were pure.
However, facts are facts. It’s a fact that Graham had his eyes on the Governor’s Mansion and the U.S. Senate at that time. A negative label from the black community wouldn’t help a self-described “populist” democratic candidate solidify the traditional black-voter base for those statewide races.
Graham, like Bush, definitely had much political capital at stake. Yet, most Famuans seem to be able to express trust and support for Graham more easily than they can for Bush.
Famuans must come to realize that in politics, there are no permanent alliances–just permanent interests. We need politicians to deliver on FAMU’s interests. Who cares what motivated them to do it?
Like it or not, Bush is an important benefactor that FAMU cannot afford to alienate. He led the charge to arrest the 1999 FAMU bomber, supported the new law school and signs every appropriations bill giving FAMU money.
The FAMU community–especially the student body–must find a balance between its moral responsibility to champion issues of importance to black Floridians and the need to demonstrate a spirit of political savvy and compromise required for FAMU’s survival and growth.
Bush and the republican political juggernaut deserve credit and appreciation whenever they support FAMU. However, Famuans must make it crystal clear that recognizing them as important benefactors won’t quiet us from voicing our differences with them, or any other politicians, on important issues.
Larry O. Rivers, 21, is a senior public relations student from Tallahassee. He can be reached at LORivers1@aol.com.