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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Racial Divide

One of the most striking aspects of the whole terrible situation left in Hurricane Katrina's wake is the racial one. Everyone who has seen any pictures or footage of the hundreds of thousands displaced by Katrina has seen what I have - an overwhelming majority of black faces, with a token white here or there, usually elderly or disabled.

The NY Times has an interesting breakdown of the demography of New Orleans that explains some of why there was such a strong racial aspect to this.
First of all, New Orleans is a city that was more than two-thirds black, as compared to nationwide, where the black population is at about 12%. In addition, a much larger percentage of people live below the poverty line in New Orleans than do nationally. 35% of black households didn't own cars, compared to 15% of white households. The people who were left behind in the mandatory evacuation of the city were mostly the poorest, and those were overwhelmingly black. In addition, those living in the lowest-lying areas, and therefore the areas most affected by the breached levees, were overwhelmingly black. The Lower 9th Ward, the lowest-lying area, was 98% black.

So it's not that hard to understand why so many faces in the crowds of victims were black.

Another issue being raised is why it took so long for aid to reach the stranded victims.
If you agree with rapper Kanye West, the reason for it was our country's deliberate lack of interest in coming to the speedy aid of the poor and the black:
A celebrity telethon for Hurricane Katrina survivors took an unexpected turn when outspoken rapper Kanye West went off script during the live broadcast, declaring America is set up "to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off as slow as possible."
I have trouble believing that this country that we live in deliberately drags its heels when confronted with a tragedy or a crisis that affects those with less resources or a certain skin color. I'm sorry. There are many reasons why the majority of the storm refugees from New Orleans are black - but I don't think any of those reasons are rooted in a neglect for those who aren't rich and white. Please recall that many of those affected by the storm in other areas were not as overwhelmingly representative of the black community - the footage was just much less dramatic than that of the thousands upon thousands stranded in New Orleans, so the networks chose not to air it as often.
The fact, however, that those in charge of the rescue efforts seemed to move much more slowly than was needed is a fact. Why were we able to airlift supplies to the survivors of the Tsunami halfway across the Earth, yet encounter such delays in getting the same basic supplies to our own citizens? The Federal governement and FEMA must answer to those charges. As must the local government of New Orleans, who knew the demographic breakdown of their city, knew that many did not have access to private transportation and would not be able to heed a mandatory evacuation order. Why weren't these people provided with busing to evacuate them?
Putting blame aside, though, this piece is very interesting. Slate points out that even though it may be understandable that so many blacks vs. whites were affected in New Orleans, and the root cause of the delay in aid was not based in racism, it doesn't allow us to ignore the very salient point that this disaster did affect blacks so disproportionately.
When disaster strikes, Americans—especially journalists—like to pretend that no matter who gets hit, no matter what race, color, creed, or socioeconomic level they hail from, we're all in it together. This spirit informs the 1997 disaster flick Volcano, in which a "can't we all just get along" moment arrives at the film's end: Volcanic ash covers every face in the big crowd scene, and everybody realizes that we're all members of one united race.

But we aren't one united race, we aren't one united class, and Katrina didn't hit all folks equally. By failing to acknowledge upfront that black New Orleanians—and perhaps black Mississippians—suffered more from Katrina than whites, the TV talkers may escape potential accusations that they're racist. But by ignoring race and class, they boot the journalistic opportunity to bring attention to the disenfranchisement of a whole definable segment of the population. What I wouldn't pay to hear a Fox anchor ask, "Say, Bob, why are these African-Americans so poor to begin with?"

28 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

good post ortho.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Moishe Q. Public said...

The response was 100% because of demographics. Would it have taken so long to save San Jose? Would YOU have responded differently if it was Boro Park? This is a shanda. We have let these people down. We have let ourselves down.

2:02 PM  
Blogger respondingtojblogs said...

Always the voice of reason, Orthomom. Isn't it just easier to revert to stale racial rhetoric?

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Play the race card...PLAY IT!"
~ Homer Simpson (Safety Inspector, Sector 7G)

7:32 PM  
Blogger shleppy said...

http://tiadaily.com/php-bin/news/showArticle.php?id=1026

this link will explain things.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post. Youre the first in the j-sphere that has touched this topic, afaik.

8:28 PM  
Blogger DovBear said...

Sorry to link whore, but this is a special case:

http://dovbear.blogspot.com/2005/09/fema-turns-away-cavalry.html

9:14 PM  
Blogger Moishe Q. Public said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:20 PM  
Blogger Moishe Q. Public said...

Race card? This is so obviously connected to race. Check this out and understand that being poor and black in America is not that different from being a Jew in other places.

11:23 PM  
Anonymous kaspit said...

"but I don't think any of those reasons are rooted in a neglect for those who aren't rich and white"

I know it's hard to pin down at times, but police, public authorities, etc treat blacks very differently. (Including black police...) It's part stereotype and animosity, and in a situation like this, a large dose of invisibility. But just because it's hard to pin down, that doesn't make the racism any less. Haven't you ever picked up on anti-Jewish code and attitude and insensitivity, but nothing you could put your finger on quite? In any case, the data here will be more blatant and some of it is starting to come out.

I posted some about the race aspects here, "No child left behind?" and here.

Race is constructed to divide. When disaster strikes, why is it hard to believe that Bush and many other govt officials don't spring into action over people of a different race?

11:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harry Connick Jr., on the Today Show Friday morning, interviewed as he toured NOLA, told Katie Couric that it took him less than an hour to arrive at the superdome, so what was the problem with getting supplies, food, water in to everyone there?

He also stated that people warned him "not to go down there, you'll get jumped, they'll shoot you."

Katie Couric, not on the ball, should have asked WHO told you that?

Is it possible assistance was held up out of fear of approaching the Scary Negroes? Fueled, of course, by footage of all the lootings in the media?

If you think this wasn't about racism, might want to think further....

1:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a must read

http://www.nola.com/newslogs/tporleans/index.ssf?/mtlogs/nola_tporleans/archives/2005_09.html

3:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with race.It is just one big massive screwup.beginning with the black mayor of New Orleans.He did not follow the protocol to save lives.take a look at Drudge .you will see an aerial view of hundreds of school busses parked in one lot.These busses were supposed to be used to bring people to safety.This moron of a mayor didn't do this .Racism,my foot.

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DovBear said...

One can always depend on DovBer to quickly jump in with a shameless self-promotion.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous H said...

Orthomom:

Have you looked at your email account at orthomom@hotmail.com lately?

Thanks.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Moishe Q. Public said...

Yes, anon, aerial views of 100's of school buses that the local gov't DID NOT USE to evacuate poor black people who had no money, no car, no means to leave the city when they wanted to. They had NO TRANSPORT 'cause the buses were in a lot.
Poor blacks, let them eat cake, uh, walk.

9:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moshe q.
What I meant was ,the black controlled city government did not take care of the poor black people who had no means of getting out of town.This was a combination of not giving a damn and stupidity,not racism.

11:11 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Though I'm sure if the mayor of NO had been white, there would have been charges of racism for the failure to evacuate the droves of impoverished - who were mostly black.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Moishe Q. Public said...

A black cannot be a racist (against blacks)? So, there is no such thing as a self-hating or anti-semetic Jew either? I don't know if the mayor is racist, an idiot or incompetent or all of those. But the overall complete lack of response from the government would never had happened if those poor souls were white. If that was San Jose you think the response would have been the same? Well why? It started with the local gov't but ended with every freaking level of gov't. As I blogged, this would not be the case elsewhere. Other disasters were never handled like this, those disasters which hit white folk in Florida. Plain and simple, the poor black lost. As Jews, we better wake up to what this country is capable of.

Ich bin ein shvatze.

11:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Other disasters were never handled like this, those disasters which hit white folk in Florida.

I lived in S. Florida when Andrew struck. It took FEMA MORE THAN 7 DAYS to arrive. And there the damage was in relatively well confined area and there was no flooding. The big difference was that the corrupt Miami and Dade officials are mere amateurs when compared to the grifters who ran New Orleans. They did not know that they could simply go on a finger-pointing spree and avoid doing their job.

12:14 AM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

This is idiocy. Read the WallStreetJournal's article on this: All the other major areas affected were primarily white, and they didn't get a response either. This had to do with terrible planning and a lack of action, not racism.
And if someone wants to play the race card, be very careful: The same people left behind are the ones looting etc. - similiar situations around the world never resulted in this much looting this quickly and in such violent fashion. If you think the lack of response is because of race, what's to stop people from saying the looting is because of the 'culture that breeds it'?!

1:11 AM  
Anonymous SirRantsAlot said...

Props to Ezzie.

This race thing (Pardon me OM) is BULLSHIT! The mayor and governor drooped the ball. Because they are Dems. its eassy for the left to go after Bush. The reason why we did not fall apart during 9/11 was because of Giuliani. He stood side by side with the police commisioner and chief of the fire dept. And as far as Florida goes Jeb was in charge there.

Ezzie YOU GO BOY!! You are right on target.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous cosmo said...

All you anonymouses should give yourselves names. What r you hiding? Even if its a fake name at least give yourself some identity.

6:13 PM  
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