pissing on those below you

Regardless of whether you agree with Kanye West that Bush doesn’t like black people, and suspect that might have something to do with the less than acceptable response from the federal government to the situation in New Orleans, I think it’s hard to deny that race played a part in what we all saw unfolding there. Those individuals more likely to have been “left behind” to take the brunt of the storm weren’t the people with cars and access to money for hotel rooms, they were the predominantly black residents of New Orleans’ poorer wards… The good thing about Katrina, if it can be said that anything good could come of such a thing, is that the questions of race in America has been swept back out from under the rug, at least temporarily. With this in mind, I have a few links to leave you with tonight.

The first is to the new issue of Harpers, which has an article in it on the de-facto segregation in America’s schools today. The article’s entitled, “Still Separate, Still Unequal: America’s Educational Apartheid,” and it’s well worth a read.

And, while we’re on the subject of race, I wanted to share a little piece of distressing news from right here in Washtenaw County. According to the University of Michigan student paper, two undergraduates may face charges in a racially motivated felony. Here’s a clip:

The Ann Arbor Police Department has issued warrants for two University students for allegedly yelling obscenities and urinating on two students in a racially motivated act.

The incident began when one of the suspects, a 21-year-old, allegedly urinated from a second-floor balcony on two Asian students walking down the 600 block of South Forest Avenue Thursday night.

After the couple asked why they were being urinated on, the suspect and another student reportedly began to use racial slurs disparaging the couple’s Asian heritage…

Having just read the Metafilter discussion on racism in the wake of Hurricane, it makes me wonder if perhaps the two things might be connected in some way. Instead of making us face the situation and think about issues of race and inequality in America, is it possible that the experience of Katrina is going to drive us all further apart form one another?

With that in mind, here’s a clip from a mass-distribution chain letter that was forwarded to me by a reader named Kathleen.

…But this is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made disaster.

The man-made disaster is not an inadequate or incompetent response by federal relief agencies, and it was not directly caused by Hurricane Katrina. This is where just about every newspaper and television channel has gotten the story wrong.

The man-made disaster we are now witnessing in New Orleans did not happen over the past four days. It happened over the past four decades. Hurricane Katrina merely exposed it to public view.

The man-made disaster is the welfare state.

For the past few days, I have found the news from New Orleans to be confusing. People were not behaving as you would expect them to behave in an emergency–indeed, they were not behaving as they have behaved in other emergencies. That is what has shocked so many people: they have been saying that this is not what we expect from America. In fact, it is not even what we expect from a Third World country.

No, it couldn’t be the failure of our educational system, and the fact that very few born into poverty are able to escape it… It’s that we’ve been too generous with “the blacks.”

I suspect that we’ll be hearing that a lot in the months to come.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted September 23, 2005 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I’m not a fan of reading too much into the things the press picks up. The undergrad who took a racially motivated leak — he’s just a common criminal who ought to be kicked out of U of M and thrown in jail for the crime he committed. I don’t think we can read much more into it, and certainly not a connection with a hurrican 2000 miles away. Let us not forget that this type of criminal racist behavior goes on all over this country on a daily basis. Hitting the A2 Snooze’s radar is the noteworthy difference here, in my view.

    As to the “man-made disaster,” this is not solely a poverty issue or racial issue (thousands of rich, white people lost houses, too). It is the intersection of a number of problems, not the least of which is incompetence. Our gov’t isn’t competent at anticipating problems and proactively managing them. Our gov’t reacts to them after they have occurred. We have a long, rich history of pure reactionism and few citable instances of proactivity.

  2. Posted September 23, 2005 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    How many rich white people lost their lives in New Orleans?

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