Thursday, September 01, 2005

Some thoughts on New Orleans

Like many of you, I've been pretty much glued to the TV watching the constant stream of suffering flowing out of New Orleans. Gosh, where do I begin. I can't be coherent so here are some observations.
  • There seems to be some serious media bias in the coverage of the "looting". In one instance there was a picture of a couple of black people carrying away bags of supplies, the accompanying caption called the individuals looters. In another picture a few white people were wading through water with bags of supplies. These individuals were described as looking for bread. Can we all say unconscious racism and bias?
  • Based on the images coming out of New Orleans one would think that the entire population of New Orleans is black and uneducated. This is obviously not the case. They said that 20% of the population of New Orleans remained in town after the city was ordered to evacuate. I suspect the people who remained did so not voluntarily but because they had no means to leave - no car, no money. The people who are now stranded in the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center are the poorest, most desperate portion of society. These are people who have lived a life of disenfranchisement. They lived on the most frayed edges of society before the hurricane hit, barely thriving in our racially divided society...and now they are pushed even further down the social laddar. If New Orleans ordered a mandatory evacuation why didn't they provide some means for the poorest to also leave. The one lesson this hurricane has taught us: if you are poor you will be left behind. This disaster lays bare the reality of race and poverty in this country - a reality that most fair-weather liberals and conservatives refuse to accept. I suspect that the struggle to rebuild from these events will be far more difficult and prolonged than anyone can comprehend.
  • Why are people making such a broohaha about people looting supplies that are ostensibly destroyed and unsalvagable to begin with? The shoes being looted wouldn't have been salvagable, nor the food supplies. Just a thought.
  • Although I know the government says they are doing everything to help New Orleans, from my perspective it does seem to be taking an extremely long time to get aid to New Orleans. If 400,000 can evacuate a city in less than 2 days (that would be the 80% of the city who were able to get out before the hurricane) why is it taking over 4 days to transport the 50,000 stranded in the Superdome and Convention Center?

Just some of my thoughts about everything that is going on. Ultimately, even though I know this is happening in my own country and even though I've visted New Orleans in the past, somehow I feel very detached from the drama unfolding down south. Was this what people felt when they observed the events of 9-11? 9-11 was so real for me and something I lived with on a daily basis for almost 6 months (the fires burned for about that long and you could smell the stench in the air continously). Was 9-11 just a very bad movie for the rest of you?

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