Thursday, September 29, 2005

katrina & race: post mortem

Body and Soul: Criminals and victims revisited

as is my wont i'm posting this right before bed so my thoughts aren't going to be smooth or plainly laid out. i'm thinking about the story my father told me, of black people eating dead bodies; i'm thinking of stories of black people shooting at helicopters trying to rescue them; i'm thinking about stories of marauding hordes while a city descends into chaos and anarchy. i'm thinking about stories of gang rapes in stadiums.

did we believe these stories?

how many blogs did we read where commenters distanced ourselves from what we heard and saw on tv; we were horrified at those stories and angry at them. posters saying they couldn't understand why people would behave like that. we spoke in private conversations at the office about not getting how people could be so lawless. where was the personal responsibility, we asked? where's the accountability, we mused?

i did it. i remember writing on my other blog how ashamed i felt at all those stories and images. i internalized the easy racist (prejudice + power = racism) narratives of the Black Rapist, the Black Looter, the Black Savage.

and now, on further examination, it turns out those narratives were mostly empty. yes, there was looting; yes, there was crime. but not on the level our fevered imaginations created. the shots fired at helicopters were fired on the ground; the hordes are two men; the rapes...

so, now that we're calmer, where did our acquiescence come from? why were we so pliant to listen to those stories?

don't you think that's interesting?
i think that's interesting.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

We're gullible. We have allowed the media to sway our beliefs. We allow them to get in our heads instead of thinking rational for ourselves.

ding said...

but it's more than that. when we look back on the coverage i think we can see several hysterias at work at once - race hysteria being one of them.

we're more than gullible; in my opionion this is about our culture still ignoring the ways that racism still works on all of us. racism isn't just about how it victimizes people of color - it's about how all of us think.