Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Black & White of Hurricane Katrina

There’s deep division in America again, this time not because of politics, but of race, stirred up in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

John Burris, a defense attorney, questioned the priority in the evacuation of university students. He averred that students at overwhelmingly white Tulane University were evacuated two or three days before students at Xavier University, which has a large number of black students. From what Burris had witnessed after the hurricane had blazed her terrible path across the south-eastern states, he felt that the poor and destitute Americans, mainly blacks, were even made to look poorer than people in 3rd world countries.

He wondered how this had come about considering this is America. He questioned the pathetic response by the federal administration and their excuses when every major television network could have people inside the affected zone within 24 hours of the disaster. It took the federal government 4 days before they brought essential supplies and security to the devastated areas. Again, he has been bemused by this inexplicable lethargy demonstrated by Bush and his officials.

Barbara Lee, a Democrat congressional member for Burris’ area said:

"If anyone ever doubted that there were two Americas, this disaster has made this division clear. Is this an example of the administration's idea of homeland security? If so, we are in trouble.''

Now, New Orleans had a population of 500,000 people, where 2 out of 3 residents are African American. One would have thought that the vast majority of refugees would reflect the city's ethnic composition of 2:1. However, this was not so. Journalist Chip Johnson wondered why he had difficulty sighting one white face in the mayhem, other than tourists who were unfortunate to be stuck in New Orleans while attempting to flee town.

The only explanation he could think off is that poor African Americans, or blacks, have always been last in line for meaningful services and support. He reckoned that because of this discrimination they would be the ones taking the last bus out of New Orleans, hence all the TV could show were black Americans who were still left behind still trying to catch a bus out of town.

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