Thursday, September 1, 2005

Race, Class, Katrina and...Silence

I have been noticing this in the coverage. We see so many images on our television of poor African-Americans trapped in New Orleans. The news channels loop the same images of poor, young African-Americans looting some of the stores. Why is there no commentary about why they might be the only ones left? Or even why are there so many poor African-Americans in New Orleans? Why were there no contingency plans to bus poor people from New Orleans out of the city before the hurricane? No one seems to have the courage to talk about this on television.

I did turn to talk radio the other night while driving. NPR was playing its musical program and I wanted to hear some commentary about Katrina. I found Michael Reagan's show and he was fixated on the fact that all of the looters were black. He seemed to want to make a connection between a type of behavior and skin color. I did not hear anything about New Orleans' high poverty rate or that 67 % of New Orleans is African-American or any other obvious factor.

I imagine Michael Reagan has never been poor or trapped in the middle of a natural disaster without food or water and deep down I bet even he does not know how he'd react if it came down to scrounging for his next meal.

Lost in the Flood

Why no mention of race or class in TV's Katrina coverage?

I can't say I saw everything that the TV newscasters pumped out about Katrina, but I viewed enough repeated segments to say with 90 percent confidence that broadcasters covering the New Orleans end of the disaster demurred from mentioning two topics that must have occurred to every sentient viewer: race and class.

Nearly every rescued person, temporary resident of the Superdome, looter, or loiterer on the high ground of the freeway I saw on TV was African-American. And from the look of it, they weren't wealthy residents of the Garden District. This storm appears to have hurt blacks more directly than whites, but the broadcasters scarcely mentioned that fact.



Blogger J said...

Silence certainly. The media even the "nice" and "calm" ones like NPR dance around such issues...they don't want to put in the time to deal w/ race and class intelligently.

keep up the good work with the "dissident" in the middle of the country type thing.

-- jenny, not so dissident dissident in a thoroughly blue state.

September 01, 2005  
Blogger torporific said...

Thanks, for stopping by, Jenny. In the article, the author thought that some were afraid to touch the race issue because they were afraid that they'd make some sort of Al Campanis type remark. I am annoyed how they loop the video that they have. I remember seeing the same three people coming out of a drugstore every 30 seconds. This only makes the perception worse.

September 01, 2005  
Anonymous Mokita Syzygy said...

"All Things Considered" on NPR carried a story this afternoon about a simulation exercise earlier this year, featuring an imaginary "Hurricane Pam" that flooded New Orleans. The scenario pretty much paralleled what actually happened with Katrina.

About 110,000 households in New Orleans have no transportation, and officials reckoned most of them would not be able to get out of town if there were an evacuation order.

The "Hurricane Pam" scenario assumed that Ponchartrain would overflow the levees and flood the city -- a scenario that Bush said earlier today no one could have anticipated.

When Bush said that (and before NPR carried the story about the disaster simulation), I found myself yelling at the radio. There are plenty of scientists and analysts in this country who analyze, model, and plan for disaster situations. It's utterly astonishing that the President is oblivious of this research and planning.

I guess the real problem with people in government is that they just don't care about a problem until it's too late to do anything about it.

Right, Hobbes?

September 01, 2005  
Blogger Jezebella said...

On The Diane Rehm Show, one guest asserted that the levies themselves caused New Orleans to be below sea level, thus allowing the great flood they were built to prevent.

He also asserted that the use of fossil fuels will sooner or later bury all coastline cities under water, since fossil fuels cause global warming which causes the sea level to rise. But I'm sure nobody will have ever anticipated it (especially nobody named Bush) when Miami is obliterated. You certainly won't see any evidence of that piece of science in the energy legislation.

ps-Diane's guests made no mention of the racial/class issues either.

September 01, 2005  
Blogger fatrobot said...

how hard is it to get a swamp buggy and some water and grits to these people?

it took the reporters no time in getting in there


September 02, 2005  
Blogger lemming said...

Later on today the Diane Rehm show discussion included a Slate staffer (possibly the one who wrote the article you quote) who noted the reluctance to discuss race and class among reporters and analysts.

As I recall, GW Sr. had similiar problems with Hurricane Andrew. Alas, GWB isn't up for re-election.

September 02, 2005  
Blogger Nölff said...

I think this thing shows the separation of class in the South. White people are have more wealth. I know first hand. The white folks moved out and they probably had enough money to spend on gas and hotel. The poor people probably had no transportation and didn't have enough money to get out. The poor people are mostly black.

September 02, 2005  
Anonymous Ashamed and Sad said...

I heard a report yesterday from a now former New Orleans radio DJ talking about how the "big secret" of poor race relations in New Orleans is now "out of the bag." I am not particularly surprised that this is so. He was not lamenting the fact...only saying that this sore was now exposed for all to see...well, just maybe people will wake up and understand that the color of your skin is immaterial to the essence of your being. Maybe it will help ultimately...I hope but also have my doubts.

And the so-called response to help people - our fellow citizens - has been such a complete and utter disaster. It is (as reported by the AP) a "national disgrace." Where does the buck exactly stop anyway?? Not at this President's desk. I know it is hard to blame one person - but he is the elected leader of the country.

And the plain fact is that, at a minimum, government must take care of its people in an emergency - even if it does nothing else.

I am ashamed and very, very sad.

September 02, 2005  
Anonymous Moulton said...

The governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, said yesterday, "I think any of us that watched the TV in the last couple days recognize this has not been a real showcase for American ingenuity and management."

Romney, you may remember, is the ex cathedra CEO of Staples Inc. who salvaged the Winter Olympics after it got caught up in a scandalous debacle of corruption and incompetence.

The dysfunctionality of government is palpable, legendary, breathtaking, and heartbreaking.

September 03, 2005  

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