September 5, 2005

Racism in the Respone to Katrina

Joe Malchow in a recent post suggested that natural disasters are equal opportunity destroyers, and that there is no racism involved with Federal Government's appalingly slow response. While I watch various political and non-political (cough - Kanye West) figures weigh in on the issue, I'm somewhat pleased just to see the issue of race being addressed here, and some recognition of the reality that mostly black people are suffering. It serves as a great counterweight to all the footage of African-Americans looting stores and shooting at people. So far, however, the only clear example of racism has been one man (I think this was in a U.S. News report, but I can't find it right now) who was not backed by the government, using not-so-PC language in explaining his choice not to rescue any black people.

But its not that simple. Black people are suffering disproportionately, not because of their race (at least, not directly), but because of their socio-economic status. Poor white people I'm sure are suffering quite badly as well. In the coming months as people feebly try to weed out who deserves blame for what in this disaster, I hope the government addresses the pervasive problems of poverty than make these people so vulnerable. Because it's not so simple as saying President Bush hates black people. It's not that he hates them, he just doesn't care about them, or any other poor people for that matter.

Unfortunately, few natural disasters actually are equal-opportunity destroyers. Right now, the only big exception that comes to mind is wildfires that tear through suburbs.
The problem isn't so much that black people get hit badly, but that poor people get hit badly, and as we all know, a lot of poor people are black people. Poor people suffer disproportionately because they live in more densely populated areas, in housing of sub-standard quality, and a lack of information and resources to enable fleeing the impending disaster. People often joke that tornados steer themselves towards trailer parks. Well, not quite. But a tiny little aluminum box will come out of the storm in far worse shape than a newly built house in the suburbs. When you consider how tightly clustered a trailer park is compared to a normal housing development, you can see once again why poor people suffer disproportionately. Finally, they are the least likely to be able to leave everything behind, jump in their cars, and book a hotel room somewhere out of harm's way. Now that I think of it, the process of recovering afterwards is probably tougher when you are completely broke, and your now destroyed former employment was the only thing keeping food on the table.
This isn't an issue of race so much as it is an issue of neglecting the poor and neglecting the inner cities. Where I don't dispute the cries of racism is here: The inner cities are easier to ignore because they are poor and black. The American public doesn't hear from them, and is less likely in general to sympathize with their plight.

The slow response isn't motivated by racism, but its enabled by a long-standing neglect of such areas and the people that are affected. One can only wonder whether the same violence would've broken out if, during the peak of the crack epidemic, if there was a comprehensive effort at providing drug counseling and rehabilitation services in addition to increased police pressure. With better housing assistance, would as many people be stuck in homes so easily damaged by the high winds and water? With better healthcare, would there have been so many people on the brink of death, unable to withstand a week without adequate food and water?
The media focus on looting and destruction, as opposed to struggling and separated families helps reinforce the fear America has of urban black people, but still, we can all see through to the main point. Human beings are suffering, and they shouldn't be. As we prepare to prevent this from ever happening again, we should focus on the succeptibility of the poor as much as we concentrate on the weakness of the levees.


  1. I do not agree with most of what you wrote as I am convienced that a lot of poor people are kept in that status (white or black) due to well intensioned democratic liberals. hand outs rather than hand ups. The lack of planning for New Orleans disaster plan is both a govenor and major issue. However it goes back more than just a little while. If I might add, I think that is political gain, grand-standing and a self serving attitude that brought racism into this very tragic circumstance. The response was tremendous could it have been improved...yes...failing to adequately plan certinly played the largest role...and that goes for every community facing potential natural disaters. In America we are the government...Not the Feds, Not the politions. We elect our representatives. If we cannot trust them it is our own fault for electing such to posiitons of authority over us. But those that took action took the actions they knew some were very helpful and still working night and day to help those stuck or dispalced by the largest natural disater to hit the US.

    Even the Federal Government did what they thought was best in a timey fashion. However I will be willing to bet not even the good congressmen from Louisiana knew what to do in this situation. The Mayor certinly was clueless. The media should obviously be in charge as they and the selected interviewees have all the answers and the pointing fingers.

    Instead of bringing hope to devistation they brought disunity and fueled anger.

    I believe Many (not all needed one) are now given a chance to "start over", something they may have wanted but may never have done. Whether it was due to being trapped in the daily grind of working and living payday to payday, addictions, apathy, or the fear of doing something new, those barriers have been lifted and they now have been given the gift of an opportunity to due something different.

    All survivors can now rise up above the circumstances and be grateful to a loving God who protected their life, sustained them for yet another day, who sent rescuers in due time, poured in relief support of communities all over the USA.

    I have witnessed and seen reports of many Americans doing great things in showing support for and compassion towards those affected by the storm. Consider gratefulness to be alive, the opportunities given to all of us to help others and to develop camaraderie and life long friendships amongst those other survivors and those who also lost so much including loved ones, and most of all God's grace in protecting each one and now sustaining you daily for a greater purpose in the future. I guess I should step down off my soap box. I ran across your blog accidently (or devinely)and felt the need to vent a little myself. Have a great day! and God Bless you!

  2. Cjkay777,
    Unfortunately not everyone has access to your "Christian-based business" scam designed to make one miraculously wealthy.
    God bless yourself, you condescending, ignorant, exploitative prick.
    The response was not tremendous. Lets look at a few simple facts.
    1. The head of FEMA is an unqualified individual who's only previous management experience is as the head of the International Arabian Horse Association.
    2. Funding to the Army Corps of engineers was cut repeatedly before the hurricane hit.
    3. Officials were repeatedly informed of the inadequacy of the levee system and the need to improve it.
    4. They ordered an evacuation in a city where people had no means to evacuate.

    But lets get past that, you mindless sniveling, talking-point regurgitating putz. Take your remote, click off the Fox, and listen to me. The poor people reaped what they sowed because of their own laziness and dependence on handouts?
    I am not the government. I am not the administration that sat on its hands for 5 days trying to decide who should take control of the situation. I am not the administration that is trying to blame local officials. I am not the administration that attacks the environment and then shrugs its shoulders when an area with devastated wetlands and barrier islands is socked by a hurricane.

    Nothing has been timely. People are still drowning in their attics and starving to death, screaming for help while shit-infested water rises past their necks. The Mayor was not clueless. He was demanding the federal government take action, demanding aid, demanding an immediate response, as he watched his home city sink into deeper and deeper trouble.

    Oh, but they should praise our benevolent Jesus for this magnificent opportunity to start over. Start over with what? They have no clothes, no money, no homes, no food. Despair is not known for its tendency to free people from their addictions.

    You are a moron, and here is why. You manage to blame welfare for the federal government's inability to respond, and in the same breath, say we shouldn't blame the government that we elect. You think complete devastation and ruin is evidence of a benevolent god and will help these poor fucking lazy people repair their lives.
    Our government is entrusted to protect us, and they dropped the ball. We elect them but that doesn't strip us of the right to criticize them when they are responsible for the deaths and injury of tens of thousands of Americans. Somehow, though, New Orleans and its poor were left behind, partly because this administration is too busy pandering to your demographic.

    You know what? Take your fucking pious attitude, shove it up your ass, and pick up a newspaper.

    Praise that, asshole.

  3. Anonymous10:00 AM

    Hurricanes are not equal opportunity destroyers. There is a marked tendency for poor people (mostly black) to live on the lower ground in New Orleans, while the higher ground is where the more expensive houses (take the French Quarter for example). Obviously, in this horrible disaster, everyone or pretty much everyone is affected. But no one would make stupid comments like hurricanes are equal opportunity destroyers of the Gulf Coast and Wymoning. This is because simple facts of geography. And when social factors (including race, class or both) combine to distribute some people along the low ground...
    Anyway, here it doesn't seem to matter, but you see how simplistic that statement of Joe's was.

  4. Anonymous12:40 AM

    Normally, liberals would criticize the Bush administration for trampling liberties if it sought to deploy active-duty armed forces into a Democratic city with the aim of "restoring order" without waiting for state or local approval. "Tyrrany!" they'd cry. "Oppression! Police state!"

    Now they're complaining because Bush didn't do just that.

    So is he too authoritarian, or not authoritarian enough?

  5. Ok tough guy, lets think here. If there was a mandatory evacuation, and there is established precedent in cases like this where not everybody evacuates, so the government enters and enforces this evacuation, or at the very least provides the means to evacuate after explaining the necessity, nobody would call that tyranny.
    If they walked into a ghetto during a non-emergency and started abusing people for no reason, well thats oppression.
    Forcing an evacuation to save lives? Not quite. But it's tough to pretend Bush had anything to do with this either way. Bush ordered absolutely nothing at all, either way. And his response afterwards included a couple days of silence.

  6. Anonymous11:21 AM

    The federal government lacks the authority to call for a mandatory evacuation. States alone have that power, since they alone have police authority over civilian populations. If asked, the feds can help local authorities evacuate a city or do any number of other tasks, but they were not asked until after the hurricane hit.

    In fact, President Bush called Gov. Blanco two days before the hurricane hit to urge a mandatory evacuation. The governor declined. After the hurricane, President Bush called offering to take charge of the situation from the state government. The governor again declined. Hardly "silence."

  7. Niral, you win the prize for being the most Jesuphobic asshole on the net. It just chaps you're ass that someone actually would choose faith in Jesus, God or anything else over your souless blab, doesn't it? I could picture your response before I got halfway through cj's comment and I get tickled every time.

    It matters not what Bush did or didn't do, you'll find a way to bitch and moan. It's all a game isn't it. You leftests just keep isolating yourself.

    "Human beings are suffering, and they shouldn't be."

    Sorry, we all suffer dearie. Always have, always will, but thank goodness we can look to Jesus, God, Budda, or Allah or whatever that turns us on to help make it through these hard times.

    Of course, had the good mayor of Nawlins had the common sense to take the principal means of transportation under his control and stage it at higher ground so it wouldn't have become useless, that would have been a real help to those who suffered. Had the state ordered the N.O. National Guard vehicles loaded with their equipment moved to higher ground, it might not have been useless Tuesday. So rather than do the very most obvious things they knew they would need, that decided to do nothing. Then they hold up the supplies to the poor souls trapped in the dome. Clueless or just incompetent?

    "As we prepare to prevent this from ever happening again"

    No one thinks you believe that for a minute, you condescending, ignorant, exploitative prick.

    "we should focus on the succeptibility of the poor as much as we concentrate on the weakness of the levees."

    Well, most of these folks now have the opportunity of their lifetime for a new beginning in towns large and small all over the South. That's certainly true here in Atlanta.

    "Start over with what? They have no clothes, no money, no homes, no food. Despair is not known for its tendency to free people from their addictions"

    How eloquent. How very wrong. You obviously haven't been volunteering at the Salvation Army supply center as my wife and did this weekend, because clothes, food, shelter and money is exactly what the evacuees from all over the coast are getting. And by the way, you prejudiced moron, because their black and poor, they're not necessarily an addict. Of the two hundred or so families I came in contact with, I could count on one hand the ones I thought might be a little strung out. And some of those were white.

    The government, be it local, state or national can't protect us from all maladies as you well know, but the spin fits your purposes, right?

    You know what? Take your fucking arrogant attitude, shove it up your ass, stumble down off your Fartmouth socialist tower, and then do something constructive with your life, like passing out toothpaste, deoderant and canned goods to people who are hurting.

    Jesus might open up your heart if you did, Niral. That's assuming he could find one.

  8. Anonymous10:18 AM

    Lovely contribution this blog makes to raising the level of discourse out there. Whenever I get jaded by all the talking points I see traded back and forth between the NYTimes and Fox News, with little regard for the truth, I can always turn to this blog for a dumbed-down subset of the same talking points, with a few expletives tacked on.

    Liberals, keep rooting for more suffering in New Orleans so that you can blame it on the GOP in 2008, because that's all you really care about.

    Conservatives, keep rooting for retards like the authors of this blog to keep hysterically chipping away at their credibility until there's nothing left of it by 2008, because that's probably all you care about too.