Tags: Racial | Scapegoating | Katrina's | Wake

Racial Scapegoating in Katrina's Wake

Sunday, 04 September 2005 12:00 AM

Thus, when the squalid refugee conditions in the Superdome become intolerable, the Jesse Jacksons of the world blame George W. Bush instead of the local Democratic municipal authorities, to whom it apparently never occurred to have food and water on hand for the mass influx of people.

Then again, Bush is blamed for not evacuating the poor from their ramshackle houses in time to save their lives, in spite of the fact that hundreds of city and school buses were not commandeered by the city to force these people out of harm's way. Many of these people refused to leave their dwellings, intent instead on riding it out as they did Hurricane Camille in 1969.

Finally, the shootings and rapings and looting within and without the Superdome is somehow marginalized by others as a just response to crisis conditions of hunger and despair, like Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving child.

But how does this explain the smiling folks I saw stealing large-screen TVs and the fellow who had a case of A1 Steak Sauce under his arm? What dire emergency did this portend, other than HDTV viewing pleasure and the anticipation of a future filet mignon dinner?

Again, the very mention of these incongruities tends to bring out the worst from public figures who are predisposed to see things in their own peculiar way. During the celebrity fundraising telecast last week, rapper Kanye West accused President Bush of "not caring about black people," an attack that was as out of place as a belch from the pulpit, with the insinuation that whites could only be pleased at the sufferings of blacks.

But as is usual with televised gatherings of celebrities, no opportunity is missed by those who wish to politicize the event with their own twisted, inappropriate remarks a la Michael Moore.

During the hurricane aftermath reportage on CBS's "Sunday Morning," commentator Nancy Giles stepped over the line and delivered a shrill opinion that was not only stupid, but (dare I say) racist in its implications and, of course, insulting to President Bush. Bereft of any understanding of the situation particulars, and not knowing Bush directly and the information he received, she simply lashed out and mouthed the lies and half-truths that are now being circulated by her partisan cohorts.

What is most disturbing, and what should be aggressively smothered, is the lie that the chaos and confusion that took place after the hurricane had its roots in racial antipathy and apathy. Just like the untruths that were circulated in Florida after the 2000 presidential election – that blacks were systematically prevented from voting at the polls – the mere repetition of these words over and over for partisan purposes made this perception a reality in the minds of many.

After all, the mayor of New Orleans is black. Can one attribute his unpreparedness for the crisis and subsequent inaction to racism? In fact, in an angry outburst, he blamed the state and federal governments. Would you ascribe the wobbly and tearful reaction of the Democratic governor of Louisiana to apathy? I think not. The only possible excuse in both cases is mediocrity and lack of leadership.

Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger last week made a strong case that people turning to bureaucratic government in times of crisis usually leads to disappointment. Even so, some politicians are now actually calling for more layers of government to be slathered on. They demand a Cabinet-level Secretary of Disaster (undoubtedly to be called the Master of Disaster), and also a Reconstruction and Rebuilding Czar.

Watch for the upcoming, overwrought, coming-soon-to-a TV-near-you congressional hearings that will solemnly point the finger of blame. What you won't learn, though, is that the fault, dear reader, lies not in people's motives, but in the very nature of government itself, as well as with the choices that people themselves make when danger is imminent.

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Thus, when the squalid refugee conditions in the Superdome become intolerable, the Jesse Jacksons of the world blame George W. Bush instead of the local Democratic municipal authorities, to whom it apparently never occurred to have food and water on hand for the mass influx...
Racial,Scapegoating,Katrina's,Wake
654
2005-00-04
Sunday, 04 September 2005 12:00 AM
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