Hampton University, a legacy-filled HBCU in Virginia, decided that it was a great idea to honor President George H.W. Bush with a bronze statue on its campus. That decision has left some people…confused.
But first, more details on the Bush statue and the company it keeps.
The statue is located in the campus’ Legacy Park, an area that is also home to many other statues honoring people like Mary Jackson, the first Black female NASA engineer, abolitionist Frederick Douglass, civil rights icons Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King and Presidents Barack Obama and William Howard Taft, the latter who was president of the Hampton University Board of Trustees.
Those are the icons that the Bush statue has a home with and university officials firmly stood by its presence, as DiversityInc notes.
“President Bush demonstrated a long-standing support of Historically Black Colleges and Universities over his career. He delivered the 1991 Commencement address at Hampton University,” a press release on the park notes. “Over the next three years after President Bush spoke here, Hampton University received $40 million in federal support for faculty research, scholarships for students, and programs to enhance the university.
“I believe in giving people their credit when it is due,” Hampton’s President Dr. William R. Harvey said back in December of the 41st President who had passed away a month prior. “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.”
But as much as Bush may have contributed to Hampton and the United Negro College Fund, there are still some that point to his complicated history on racial issues, as DiversityInc points out.
Yeah the same GW that started the flow of drugs into the urban community to fund the Iran-Contra? You mean the guy who sold arms to Afghanistan and trained Bin Laden? Boyyyyyyyyyyy. Yeah put his statue right next to Andrew Jackson’s and Robert E. Lee lol. pic.twitter.com/hn4arMJBsH
— Taurean Meacham (@polosandclarks) January 28, 2019
Hol up, hol up, HOLD UP. You mean to tell me Hampton University has a bronze statue of George Bush on campus?!?!? Wtf been going on since I left??
— Positive Brotha Hakeem (@ThatMan_JC) January 28, 2019
There is, of course, the fact that when he was running for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas, he expressed his opposal to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, something which he said he regretted later in life, but…you know, history really isn’t kind to many of us.
There is also the fact that he encouraged white fearmongering during his presidential campaign speeches, repeatedly referencing Willie Horton – a Black man who raped a white woman and stabbed her partner when he was out on a furlough program that his opponent, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis supported.
Again, something that he regretted…but did.
“It was out of character for him,” Rev. Jesse Jackson told PBS, according to the report. “He did it in the heat of battle.”
Now, it is always possible that people change and grow. None of us are perfect. That being said, many of us don’t really get a chance to directly influence policy and public perception (insert obligatory “go research and vote” ad here).
In the meantime, however, Twitter users are making it clear exactly what they think of the new statue on campus.
#HamptonUniversity I'm sorry Dr. Harvey…just because you have fond memories of your friendship with George Bush, doesn't mean you should erect a statue of him on Hampton's historically black campus. P.S. I haven't forgotten this in 1991: https://t.co/HhGivd4Sh6
— Natalie Jackson, Esq. (@NatJackTweets) January 30, 2019
you sure it ain’t just Harvey standing real still?
I cannot believe Lee Atwater-Willie Horton-George H.W. Bush is memorialized in statue on the grounds of Hampton University.
— ronald. (@rondtjr) January 27, 2019
Hampton University is honoring George H. W. Bush with a statue?
— Malcolm Friday (@cantforgofriday) January 29, 2019
hampton really put george h.w bush statue on their campus?!!! seriouslY??!!! pic.twitter.com/CBmiYnUuBd
— chocolate almond milk (@organicblaq) January 29, 2019