Wednesday, September 14, 2005

national disgrace

What I found most disturbing about the images coming out of New Orleans after the storm was that almost all the white people were carrying rifles. This struck me as distinctly racist, considering that images of white people were relatively rare, that almost all the victims of the storm, the folks the white people were ostensibly trying to help, were black, and unarmed. My instincts interpreted these images a symbol for race relations as a whole in America.

It was a gut hunch, really; an impression.

Then, last night, I listened to This American Life's report on the the disaster, and I was absolutely astonished by the depth and brazenness of the racism that drove policy on the ground in New Orleans.

It turns out those guns were actually trained on the victims of this disaster. The soldiers' orders, delivered down through the federal chain of command, I assume, were to detain these American citizens in an area where they had no food, no water, and no clean place to go to the bathroom.

These folks were not allowed to cross a bridge -- a bidge in plain sight, just a few blocks away -- to water, food and electricity on the other side.

Why? The answer seems clear: They were black and poor, and the other side was the dominion of whites.

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