Monday, September 12, 2005

Racism and weather

Bush today informed reporters that hurricane Katrina was not racist. "And neither will [be] the recovery effort."

Because that's what people are saying. That this mixture of water and wind simply doesn't like poor, black people. Either he's being stupid, or he is stupid. I'm going with the former.

Obviously the storm was not racist, but it certainly highlighted racism. It showed the poverty in which people lived in New Orleans. It's certainly brought out the racism in Rush Limbaugh, who not only blames the residents for not getting out but for not taking some personal responsibility to make sure that the levies were in good working order. Yeah. I'm sure every morning Rush and his pals go out and check the infrastructure in his town, just to make sure it's in good working order. I know, personally, that I checked the traffic lights at the Coit and Campbell intersection and tomorrow morning am going to check out UTD's waste management system.

Rush (9/1/05):
The non-black population was just as devastated, but apparently they were able to get out, and the black population wasn't able to get out. Maybe New Orleans has a half decent mass transit people and some of these people don't need cars.

It actually has a not-so-great public transit system, but good thinking!
What if they can't afford cars?

Well, why is that? Why can't they afford them? What is it about New Orleans that doesn't pay? It's a 67% black population. They have lots of black-run businesses. Why is this they don't pay well down there?

Again, acting stupid or being stupid? Are we truly to believe that this self-described genius has no clue about the economic conditions that cause poverty? About the role that race plays in that?

Later on, he refers to Mayor Nagin as "Mayor Nayger."

Richard Baker (R-LA) was quoted in the Wall Street Journal: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." ["Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 9/9/05]

So, no, Hurricane Katrina was not racist (unlike some people, I do not impute natural disasters to God's wrath for the things we humans do), but people are. The fact that Katrina hit New Orleans, and that the victims were disproportionately black and poor brought the economic and institutional racism in this country into focus. The best thing that could come of this awful tragedy is that we begin to think about those issues. But if we continue to pretend they don't exist (or create a straw argument, knocking it down by saying, "Those lefties say Katrina was racist, but the storm doesn't discriminate!"), then we can't address the real issues. And that's sad.

edited to add: Part of the problem, I realized, after talking to a friend, is that we tend to think of racism as an individual thing, i.e. if I don't personally dislike people, then I am not racist, or if we have public schools for everyone, our society is not racist. I think there's a problem with our vocabulary because the word "racism" means everything from Klan members burning crosses, to following people in stores because of the color of their skin, to quality of public schools and so much more. We need to really think about was racism is, not just on a personal level but on an institutional and societal level.

edited again to add: see here, Repent America claims that God sent the hurricane to N.O. because a gay festival is held there annually: "This act of God destroyed a wicked city," according to R.A. director Michael Marcavage. Looks like they and the God-did-it-cause-of-abortion set are going to have to duke it out over who gets to speak for the Almighty.


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