Sunday, September 04, 2005

katrina and race

I just got off the phone with my father who’s been very distressed by all the images and news coming out of New Orleans at this time. A man who’s been expecting some kind of race war since 1984, my father is looking at this moment in time as a perfect opportunity for The Man to finally throw up his hands about The Violent Looting Hordes of Black People and put us all in Gitmo-like camps.

I had to calm him down; he said that things are tense where he is. Since he’s in Los Angeles, I’m not surprised. The images and news of the stranded shooting at rescue helicopters, of the city degenerating into chaos over the past week – it resonates strongly in a city that’s simmering in its own racial tensions. For him, our people have turned into animals. (He’s having a very Bill Cosby moment.)

He woke me up very early this morning (before church!!) to ask if I’d heard the rumors about cannibalism in New Orleans. I hadn’t. So I googled it. Almost all the sites that mentioned cannibalism were wacked out extreme right-wing, white supremacists.

My father was so distraught he came awfully close to saying things like this guy is saying (found via steve gilliard). I'm not going to go into an impassioned plea for racial tolerance or some pedagogical song-and-dance about how racism takes an individual act, substitutes it for the whole and then leaps off into insanity from there. It's too exhausting to teach white folks (and black folks like my dad) about the power structures of Racism. Let's keep the conversation on the micro level.

Is that what the majority of us think? Deep down, below our manners and our politics? Beyond stats on FEMA, levees, poor planning, poor execution, is this what we really think?

If it is, the problem isn’t just in New Orleans.


MEP said...

New Orleans has certainly exposed some ugliness in America as well as some humanity. I certainly don't think that the uglines is limited to this event - I think this event just brought sentiments to the surface that otherwise might have lain dormant for longer. Makes me upset as a White person who is disgusted by it. Thoughtful post.

Nicole said...

You know, as I was writing a paper today, I was struck by the comment that true Christian faith looks to incorporate, dare I say integrate, both individual and collective approaches to God. He is present in both, and therefore so is Evil.

You know, I say it takes both charity and justice to be effective in a way that is pleasing to God.

reverendmother said...

I had this crazy pollyanna idea the other day. I'm not a fan of Bush (understatement of the year, grand prize winner), but what if the president showed some leadership and said, we've seen the best and worst of ourselves this week; let's all have a national conversation about race and class--in our homes, businesses, churches, civic centers.

I just think this has touched something deep and ugly and real.

I don't know what would happen after that. But our nation is in disgrace. Maybe a good honest conversation would be a place to be brutally honest, regain some dignity and perhaps, find some solutions.

Like I said, pollyanna.

ding said...

this morning, in church, one of our readings came from romans 13.8:
Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

9For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

10Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

11And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

12The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

13Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.

14But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

across the board, we have all failed. we have failed in charity, in community, and we have failed in fulfilling our mission as christians. i wonder what our society would be like if we took these words individually to heart - not looking at others, at whether they've put on the 'armour of light' - but held the mirror to ourselves, truthfully.

racisim, classism. these are just words. the problem is in our hearts.

Pastor John said...

I am so busy today. I iron shirts and listen to Joe Gilbert & Eddie Brown and Simon & Garfunkle folk tunes. As I seek to escape back to a time when things were somewhat simpler. The news of two police officers killing themselves demonstrate the utter collapse of the infra structure. You want to hear something strange; in my life I've never heard of such. Jesus said it well; "Men's hearts failing them for fear."

greg said...

The nasty people will always be with us. Usually we don't see them, and so we can sort of forget about them, but sometimes they come out and we have to deal with them. Like the looters shooting at ambulances. Like the FEMA director who is so clueless about the nature of poverty that he simply cannot fathom why everybody didn't evacuate (never mind the fact that those who couldn't evacuate largely did what they were told to do and went to the superdome and the convention center, where FEMA thoughtfully provided NOTHING. Apparently Mike Brown's chief qualification for the job is that he was a college roomate of his predecessor. See Krugman's Column in the NYT). Like our beloved president, who ignored the whole situation until it became a photo-op.

What the bible tells me to do is to let my light shine, and count on the Holy Spirit to do the rest. I try to stay hopeful, but the night is looking pretty dark right now.

JJ said...

I turned on the news from the safety of my home in Canada and was overwhelmed... I've been to Houston, it's not a "black city"... so how come all the faces I'm seeing on the news are black? I forget sometimes that racism is still a serious problem, and then something like this happens. We still have a lot of work to do.

LutheranChik said...

I live in rural Michigan -- the destination of a lot of working-class white folks during the "white flight" of the 60's and 70's. Racism is, unfortunately, alive and well in the lily-white countryside.

ding said...

in my wealthy white congregation in the middle of chicago, people got up and left the service because our visiting pastor dared to mention white privilege and racism.

racism, bigotry and prejudice of all kinds - this is the secret heart of our culture and it always has been. and it's not going to change anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

this is from a reporter who is no fan of Bush.

Received from an acquaintance. Interesting and informative.
Subject: Louisiana Politics Over Duty


Politics over duty

This is a post from a fellow over in Merritt Is, FL, a reporter who's been researching what went on before the storm hit.

I think all of Nagin's pomp and posturing is going to bite him hard in the near future as the lies and distortions of his interviews are coming to light.

On Friday night before the storm hit Max Mayfield of the National Hurricane Center took the unprecedented action of calling Nagin and Blanco personally to plead with them to begin MANDATORY evacuation of NO and they said they'd
take it under consideration. This was after the NOAA buoy 240 miles south had recorded 68' waves before it was destroyed.

President Bush spent Friday afternoon and evening in meetings with his advisors and administrators drafting all of the paperwork required for a state to request federal assistance (and not be in violation of the Posse
Comitatus Act or having to enact the Insurgency Act). Just before midnight Friday evening the President called Governor Blanco and pleaded with her to sign the request papers so the federal government and the military could
legally begin mobilization and call up. He was told that they didn't think it necessary for the federal government to be involved yet. After the President's final call to the governor she held meetings with her staff to discuss the political ramifications of bringing federal forces. It was decided that if they allowed federal assistance it would make it look as if
they had failed so it was agreed upon that the feds would not be invited in.

Saturday before the storm hit the President again called Blanco and Nagin requesting they please sign the papers requesting federal assistance, that they declare the state an emergency area, and begin mandatory evacuation. After a personal plea from the President Nagin agreed to order an
evacuation, but it would not be a full mandatory evacuation, and the governor still refused to sign the papers requesting and authorizing federal action. In frustration the President declared the area a national disaster area before the state of Louisiana did so he could legally begin some advanced preparations. Rumor has it that the President's legal advisers were looking into the ramifications of using the insurgency act to bypass the Constitutional requirement that a state request federal aid before the federal government can move into state with troops - but that had not been done since 1906 and the Constitutionality of it was called into question to use before the disaster.

Throw in that over half the federal aid of the past decade to NO for levee construction, maintenance, and repair was diverted to fund a marina and support the gambling ships. Toss in the investigation that will look into why the emergency preparedness plan submitted to the federal government for funding and published on the city's website was never implemented and in fact may have been bogus for the purpose of gaining additional federal funding as we now learn that the organizations identified in the plan were
never contacted or coordinating into any planning - though the document implies that they were.

The suffering people of NO need to be asking some hard questions as do we all, but they better start with why Blanco refused to even sign the multi-state mutual aid pack activation documents until Wednesday which further delayed the legal deployment of National Guard from adjoining states. Or maybe ask why Nagin keeps harping that the President should have commandeered 500 Greyhound buses to help him when according to his own
emergency plan and documents he claimed to have over 500 buses at his disposal to use between the local school buses and the city transportation buses - but he never raised a finger to prepare them or activate them.

This is a sad time for all of us to see that a major city has all but been destroyed and thousands of people have died with hundreds of thousands more suffering, but it's certainly not a time for people to be pointing fingers and trying to find a bigger dog to blame for local corruption and incompetence. Pray to God for the survivors that they can start their lives anew as fast as possible and we learn from all the mistakes to avoid them in the future.