Was Kanye West Right?

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Tuesday, September 13, 2005; 12:06 PM

Rap star Kanye West's seemingly radical off-script assertion two weeks ago during a Hurricane Katrina telethon that "George Bush doesn't care about black people" has become a full-blown topic of public policy debate.

A slew of recent polls have found that large majorities of blacks believe that the federal response to Hurricane Katrina would have been considerably speedier had those trapped in New Orleans been rich and white, and that the slow response was an indication of continuing racial inequity in this country. Large majorities of whites disagree.

Most of the press coverage of these poll results has concentrated on the vast racial divide they expose. But that's not necessarily the biggest story.

The latest Gallup cuts to the chase and asks: "Do you think George W. Bush does - or does not - care about black people?"

Among blacks, 21 percent say he does and 72 percent say he doesn't.

Among whites, 67 percent say he does and 26 percent say he doesn't.

Overall, 62 percent say he does and 31 percent say he doesn't.

Obviously, that's a pretty dramatic rift. But consider the absolute numbers: Three out of four blacks, one out of four whites, and one out of three people across the country regardless of race actually believe that President Bush doesn't care about black people.

Sorry, but the question: "Does the president of the United State care about black people" should be a no-brainer. Of course he does should be the overwhelmingly common answer.

Here's a question for Washington's punditocracy: What percentage of people believing that the president doesn't care about black people should be considered alarming?

Bush and the White House are trying urgently to refute this belief with imagery from Bush's three (and soon to be four) trips to the region.

But at his morning photo-op yesterday, his first comments on the issue were far from comprehensive.

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