This morning Jeb Bush spoke at the National Urban League’s annual conference. His speech was full of rhetoric about increasing opportunity in our country and focused on his record as governor of Florida. “Social progress is always the story of widening the circle of opportunity,” he said. But a closer look at his record shows that as governor of Florida, Bush enacted policies that disproportionately hurt African Americans.
A few days ago, CAP Action looked at the devastating impact of Bush’s Stand Your Ground law, the first of its kind. In the six years following the law’s passage, the rate of gun homicides in Florida jumped above the national average to 4 murders per 100,000 residents. Also in the years since Bush signed the law, 23 other states have passed similar legislation, which has resulted in 600 more homicides a year. Stand Your Ground had a disproportionately negative impact on African Americans in the state: from 2005 to 2012, defendants who raised a Stand Your Ground defense in Florida were 24 percent more likely to avoid criminal liability for a homicide if they killed a black victim.
Now, a new report from CAP Action has looked at Bush’s record on higher education. In 1999, Bush became the first governor to ban affirmative action when he signed the “One Florida” initiative. In his speech this morning, Bush acknowledged that One Florida was “controversial” but said that it “played a useful role” in the state. But Bush’s affirmative action ban is yet another example of his policies disproportionately hurting African Americans.
After Bush banned affirmative action in Florida, the share of African American enrollment at public colleges and universities in Florida fell by nearly 11 percent. Over the same time period, African American enrollment at public universities nationwide increased. Furthermore, the proportion of African Americans in Florida universities fell even as the African American population in the state grew by 7 percent.
Fortunately, many national news outlets have picked up on the gap between Bush’s rhetoric and the reality of his policies. The Miami Herald said Bush’s inclusive message faces “a tough test” with African Americans. MSNBC said Bush faces “pitfalls” in appealing to African American voters. And Politico said, “on the issues that matter most to African Americans” Bush’s record is mixed.
This morning, Bush lamented the fact that “the first rung of the ladder is getting higher and higher,” and went on to say, “If we don’t create an education system that allows young people to reach it, we’re setting them up for a lifetime of failure.” But what Bush didn’t mention was that in banning affirmative action, he kicked the ladder of opportunity out from under many African American students in Florida.
BOTTOM LINE: In front of the National Urban League Bush’s speech was ripe with rhetoric about increasing opportunity for all Americans. But a closer look at his policies shows that under Jeb Bush’s leadership, not everyone would be given the right to rise.
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