It seems that the worst thing you can call a white person is 'racist.' A common scene at 'diversity workshops': a white person gets corrected in her prejudices and then SHE'S the one in tears and being comforted.
It hurts to get called out, especially if it not done in a loving way. But throwing a fit because your feelings are hurt only serves to derail the conversation from the larger issues at hand. Even if you were falsely accused or you were misinterpreted, are you really trying to pit this moment of discomfort against centuries of on ongoing oppression?
We need to have grace for each other in conversations about race: both for those that make ignorant statements, and for those that react with passionate anger to those statements. Is Bush a racist? Absolutely. So am I (see post: Defining Racism). Racism is like any sin: recognizing that we are broken is the first step to fixing it.
Denial isn't going to get us anywhere. We are all prejudiced and all white folks receive benefits from the color of their skin. Many other factors of privilege may intermingle and confuse the issue, but the truth remains that racial prejudice is a prevalent and persistent beast in each one of us as members of racial majority.
Does Bush 'not care about black people'? I don't know his heart. But I do know that our black brothers and sisters go through a lot of struggles that white folks as a whole don't care about, or don't even pause to consider. We go about our lives benefiting from institutionalize racial privileged, not even realizing we have them, let alone actively working against them. I think it is probably fair to assume that Bush is like most white people. So yes, he and we are racist.
Rather than getting all in a huff about being called a name that probably does apply, it would have been nice if Bush had addressed the issue head on. He could have said "Yes, and I am sorry. I don't know if I would have acted differently if the hurricane had struck Boston, but I know I am a product of a culture that makes value judgments based on color and that I am susceptible to those biases. I am working to correct that in myself and I am sorry for the pain that I cause in the meantime." But it takes guts to say something like that, even if you aren't in the national spotlight.
To some extent, white offense stems from a barrier that we put up between ourselves and those "real racists" (see Basically Good). As in: "we aren't burning crosses, so we must be alright. And don't you dare lump me in with those folks." Unfortunately, this characterization means that modern racism is alive and well and is allowed to run rampant.
It alive in the movie industry, and in the television shows. It is in our advertising and our marketing strategies. It is in out hiring policies and our admissions requirements. It is in our housing guidelines and our public policies.
And it is in the Presidents that get offended.
Abagond on Post-Jim Crow Racism and Jim Crow Racism
Abagond on White Womens' Tears
Abagond on the Five Walls of Racism