Is It Race Thing?

The images in the news this week have been horrifying. People passing tarp-covered bodies in the streets. People packed into stadiums and shelters. Others pleading on the street for food and water. People have been dying not as a result of Hurricane Katrina and the brute force of her waves, or even from drowing in the flooded aftermath of her destruction. People have been dying because they were not rescued quickly enough. In America. One of the richest, most technologically advanced nations in the world. And I have to ask why.

I've heard some say that the governement responded as quickly as they could, given the magnitude of the area and the number of people affected. I've heard still others say that while the government rescue response wasn't as quick as it should have been, really, what more could be done? Officials were doing all they could do as quickly as they could. My position is this: if Hurricane Katrina had hit in a city where 80% of the population wasn't poor and African-American, the government response would have been a whole lot different. W may have even cut his vacation short more than a pathetic two days to tour the region and get help started immediately.

The majority population of the city of New Orleans are the forgotten under normal, everyday circumstances. They are the people without the means or the education to provide for themselves. They are the people who struggle everyday, even when their city isn't flooded with water. Why would such a horrible disaster make things any different for them, as far as their government is concerned?

These people, with no means to leave the city despite the hurricane warnings, suffered horribly, and continue to suffer. And they struggled on the brink for days before help finally started to arrive this weeked. And for me, this is unacceptable.

Please consider donating to one of a variety of organized relief efforts. It's the way we can help those in New Orleans and other affected areas. And it's a way to show them we're sorry their goverment let them down.

The American Red Cross
http://www.redcross.org/

The United Way
http://national.unitedway.org/

The Humane Society of the United States
Disaster Relfief Fund
http://www.hsus.org/

American Humane Association
http://www.americanhumane.org/

12 Responses to “Is It Race Thing?”

  1. # Blogger Amy

    I agree with you and I think the problem goes even further. Here I sit, outraged over how slowly the government responded, yet part of the problem is that no one cared too much about the urban poor in New Orleans (or any other big city) before the hurricane. If people like me spent more time volunteering for organizations that work to better economic living conditions for the urban poor (Habitat for Humanity, for example), then maybe disasters like this wouldn't be such an enormous tragedy.

    This disaster--especially because it hit so close to home in an area I love dearly and have visited often--has really gotten me looking at myself. And your post (as your posts often do) really makes me think. Thanks. :)  

  2. # Blogger Guppyman

    yep... it was all a plot to kill off poor black people....

    Republicans now control the weather and have used their evil mind rays to make sure the state and local governments in Loisianna are incompetant buffoons....  

  3. # Blogger CAL

    lol at guppyman

    I think it was just a lethal combination of a uniquely disastrous geographical situation in New Orleans (you don't hear people complaining so loudly about the response in equally poor and black but not-so-prone-to-Biblical-flooding Mississippi and Alabama) and inept local, state, and federal agencies.

    I'd also be interested to hear how many of the victims really had the chance to leave. As we've seen in previous hurricane emergencies, some people just choose to stay knowing what the danger is, while some just don't understand the magnitude of the danger. I think once the media stops painting all the victims with the same brush, a clear-eyed look at the population that stayed behind in the city might just show us that more people than we thought stayed behind by choice. I mean, all those floating and partially submerged cars belonged to somebody, right?

    And while we're talking about race, I wonder if the black mayor of New Orleans could have done more to evacuate the population. I think we need to take a look at his actions or inactions just as closely as we will the federal government's.

    And finally, as some black activists have said before, the black community needs to come together to care for its own people before they can expect society to solve all their problems for them. Why all the lawlessness in the aftermath of the storm? Sure, some looted to get much needed food and water, but what did they need shopping carts full of CDs for? And what about the rapes and murders? What was the excuse for shooting at rescuers and engineers trying to repair the levees? Maybe the black community needs to look inside itself and see where the threat is really coming from.  

  4. # Blogger Kross-Eyed Kitty

    Geez, you've sparked up quite the debate!
    Personally, I think you all need to get rid of that Chimp you call President. I can't even look at that idiot on tv anymore. I really liked how he took time off from his vacation to fly over New Orleans to see the ruin. Hmmm...wasn't he on vacation when 9/11 happened? Oh, no, sorry I think he was reading a book upside down in Kindergarten class.
    I have to admit, Kristi, maybe the action didn't happen quickly enough because it was just the Po Black Folk left behind, but there were warnings for complete evacuation of New Orleans the day before the hurricane hit. And many chose not to go. Many also chose not to leave their homes, and all their worldly possessions. Perhaps the Superdome was not the best option for those unable to evacuate (they should have gone to the Zoo! see my post)
    But, honestly, I think I have to agree with Waningliberal. I am really tired of hearing the racism card. Guns, violence and crime doesn't help the cause.  

  5. # Blogger Amy

    Waningliberal: Actually, the racial makeup and economic picture of coastal Mississippi and Alabama is nowhere near "equal" to New Orleans. Gulfport and Biloxi are both in Harrison County, where the majority race is white (19.04% black in Biloxi, 33.53% black in Gulfport). Orleans Parish is 67.3% black. You can check these numbers at the U.S. Census Bureau if you like (http://www.census.gov/).

    Mobile, AL is closer at 46.29% black, but it's still no N.O.

    The poverty levels are much different as well. Gulfport is a coastal vacation spot--the poverty level there and in Biloxi is 15% (http://www.census.gov/acs/www/Products/Profiles/Single/2003/ACS/Narrative/380/NP38000US0920.htm)
    New Orleans has a poverty level of 27.9%--that's on-third of the population.

    Everyone is entitled to an opinion about whether race played an issue, but let's please be accurate with our numbers and not generalize.

    And if you're "interested to hear how many of the victims really had the chance to leave," you might want to put that number near one-third, as the statistics would suggest. Ever evacuated for a hurricane? I have, many times--I've lived on the Gulf Coast for 20+ years and I can tell you it takes more money and flexibility than someone at the poverty level can afford. How do you know "all those floating and partially submerged cars" actually worked before the storm? And if they did, having a car does you no good if you don't have the money for gas, a motel room, and the meals you will need to buy on the road.

    Kross-Eyed Kitty: If you're tired of "hearing the racism card," imagine how tired minorities are of actually experiencing the racism.

    Sorry, Kristi--don't mean to turn your blog into a debate.  

  6. # Blogger Kross-Eyed Kitty

    I've actually given this more thought today, and am a bit sorry about how I worded things. I think I was wrong.
    Those people left behind in New Orleans likely did not have the means to leave the city. They did not have cars (SUV's) to leave when the warnings came out, and I'm sure that they 1) did believe the mayor that they would be kept safe in the Dome and 2) Probably believed (like I did) that the hurricane would be the worst that they had to deal with.
    Whether or not it was a racism issue, as to whether the government reacted so slowly, I don't know. Probably, if it was New york City, the reaction would have been much quicker. So I was wrong, in using the term "racism card." I am hanging my head with embarrassment.
    Those people don't deserve someone like me judging them.  

  7. # Blogger CAL

    Don't give up so easily, Kross-Eyed Kitty. You were right, the race card is played far too often, and it's most effective in situations where decent people of all races feel so shamed to dissent that they are forced into silent acquiescence. And it’s not just the “race card.” Accusations like racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia (from my own community) don’t often add much to a debate, but they’re great ways to get a segment of the population whipped into a frenzy and fan the flames of hate.

    When called on his own charges of racism by Tim Russert this morning, the mayor of New Orleans basically answered, “Well, I don’t know what the problem was, but...” Well if you don’t know if racism was the problem, how can you make that accusation? Could it be because you think it’ll win points with your constituency? Are you backing away from that assertion now because you realize it was born of frustration in the heat of the moment, you know what a serious charge it is, and you have no facts to back it up?

    I think Amy’s recitation of statistics almost proves the point that racism wasn’t necessarily the answer. While the suffering was so great and obvious in New Orleans because there were so many people, help was slow to arrive in many areas, including those areas Amy notes are predominately white. Didn’t I hear that Plaquemines parish was also ignored, in some cases longer than New Orleans? And according to government statistics, that parish is mostly white. Those facts, combined with some excellent articles in the New York Times this week, seem to show that it wasn’t racism but incompetence, confusion, and miscommunication at all levels of government that exacerbated the effects of this disaster, an early conclusion that was confirmed by the answers Mayor Nagin was giving on Meet the Press this morning (if you paid attention to his answers and ignored the double-speak).

    Is there racism (black and white), anti-Semitism, and homophobia in this country? You bet. Did racism play in part in this disaster? Nothing you’ll ever say will convince me it did. It was incompetent, ineffective, and inexperienced leadership from all levels of government combined with a tragedy that nobody, no matter how many simulations they ran and how many meetings they held and how many plans they prepared, was truly ready to face.

    Check out this NYT article: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/national/nationalspecial/11response.html?hp&ex=1126497600&en=ce371f0e0587100b&ei=5094&partner=homepage  

  8. # Blogger Kristi

    Amy- thank you for your passionate and thoughtful comments. I completely agree with you. As I wrote in my post, these people were the forgotten BEFORE the hurricane. I don't believe for one second that their government (local, state, or federal) was going to all of a sudden remember these people and spring into immediate action to help them in the event of a natural disaster they knew was eventual give the location of New Orleans. However, if experts had been warning for years that Orange County, CA was going to flood during a hurricane, you better believe there would have been an evacuation plan in place to save those people.

    Guppyman-LOL. I think we can just agree to disagree.

    WaningLiberal- I think many, many more people stayed behind because they had no other choice, than those who willfully chose to stay. I think the failures run the gammut of government-local, state, and federal. I don't think the blame can be placed on one source only. However, Bush didn't release the federal emergency disaster money until two days following the hurricane. That's two days too late.

    Kross-Eyed-is there room in Toronto for me? I am with you on getting rid of W. He's a national embarrassment on multiple levels. And I agree with you. I think the response would have been much quicker had Katrina hit in a wealthier, whiter city.  

  9. # Blogger cara

    I have to agree with waningliberal on this issue. I feel that the all of the agencies were incompetent, under the very poor leadership of the idiot who holds the title of President. These people were left behind because of the type of diaster that occured. W does not want to be botherd by a mere hurricane because it does not effect the game of cowboy and indians he is playing in Iraq. If the diaster had been a terror attack, he would have been all over the city giving out all kind of orders. It as very clear to me that W just didn't think it was a big deal, he is into man made diasters like unjust wars, not hurricanes. I think his reaction would have been the same no matter where the hurricane hit. It is not about poor black people, it's about a president who is more intrested in bombing other countries than he is in helping the citizans of his own country, no matter what their skin color.  

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