Thursday, September 01, 2005

Beyond the gunshots, the questions

The color of misery in New Orleans is inescapable. On the H-NET Afro-Am listserv (web pages temporarily unavailable), a member asks,

Are we silent about the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Katrina on the thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of poor and largely black people who are struggling to survive and dying in the midst of this because we're stunned, because we don't know what to say and/or have nothing to bring to bear on this, or because it's off-topic for the list?

Another raises the issue of the two very different captions for similar pictures, similar except that the actor in one is black and in the other they are white. Another says,

Years ago, Audre Lorde wrote that, in a society that defines its good based on profit rather than human need, there will always be people defined as "surplus," people who are marginalized and treated without regard for their basic human rights. Isn't that what we're seeing right now in New Orleans? How can one justify the obscene focus on property crimes when human beings are in dire need of life-saving assistance? And how might the portrayals of these desperate folks, even people committing crimes against property, people the governor of Mississippi characterized as "animals," be used to rationalize slow, inadequate, and, in some cases, non-existent rescue and assistance efforts?

And finally: Fats Domino and his family are missing. He told his manager he would ride it out in his Ninth Ward home. He hasn't been seen since Monday afternoon.

UPDATE: Joan Walsh in Salon, "Flushing out the ugly truth" of race and poverty:

Personally, with all the destruction in view on Tuesday and Wednesday, I couldn't be horrified by people stealing food; I didn't even care much about people running off with sneakers and beer and TVs. Looting Wal-Mart? I don't defend it, but what do we expect? These are desperately poor people who've been deliberately left behind, in so many senses of the word -- left behind by society, shut up in housing projects and hideous poverty, and now truly left behind by local and federal officials who failed to come up with an evacuation plan for people too poor and isolated to leave on their own.

UPDATE 2: Fats Domino reportedly rescued.

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