Looters

Normally when you’re as ignorant of politics as I am, you keep your mouth shut unless absolutely necessary. But lately I can’t turn around (virtually speaking) without reading something that makes me want to put my fist through a wall. I can’t read all the news stories of people trying to capitalize on a national tragedy for political gain, without being reminded of looters trashing a flooded department store. And I can’t read all the blog blathering of people tossing blame around, without feeling as if I’m wading in feces- and corpse-filled, disease laden water.

So here’s my ignorant take on:

  • Kanye West’s “Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People”
    Dude, where the hell have you been? Bush doesn’t care about people. Why you have to single out the rest of us he doesn’t care about but who aren’t black?
  • The Bush Administration was quick to respond to 9/11, but slow to respond to Katrina…
    First off, screw all of you for having me to defend the Bush Administration! But back up a step: terrorists flying planes into buildings in Manhattan is thankfully still a unique occurance. People hear that and immediately realize, “Whoa, this is a big deal.” Hurricanes striking the Gulf Coast happens every year. Yes, there were predictions that this was a severe storm. But it’s reasonable to assume that people at every level thought all the bureaucracy and systems in place would be sufficient.
  • …and that’s because they hate black people
    The immediate response? No. It’s more easily explained by just general incompetence and underestimation of just how severe the situation was. Setting up the conditions for the disaster, by cutting the budget for the Army Corps of Engineers? Yes, that happened, and that’s what people should be calling attention to. But it’s still not anti-black; it’s anti-poor.
    So this horrible disaster has taught us that Republicans don’t have the best interests of the poor at heart. Well, thank God we learned something from it that we couldn’t have learned from, oh I dunno, the entire history of the Republican party.

Call me a Polyanna, but my philosophy is that people suck. We’re lazy and selfish and we look for the path of least resistance. Never assume a conspiracy when simple incompetence will do. Don’t assume racism when simple laziness will explain it.

These people aren’t looking for answers, they’re looking for angles. To discredit their political opponents. While these people look at New Orleans and say, “Black people are being neglected,” anyone with a soul looks at it says, “People need help.” Just when I think that we really are gradually pulling ourselves out of the muck and advancing as a species, I see how quick everyone is to just ignore all that and forget everything we’ve learned about racism in the past 200 years.

5 thoughts on “Looters”

  1. Have to say, I probably disagree with you almost 100%…

    I don’t believe for one second that race did not play a large part in how this shit went down.

    But I do think you’re right in that it probably has a lot to do with people being poor, too.

  2. Okay, then my question is how? How did race play a large part in this?

    I’m not going to say for one second that we’ve solved the race problem; I still leave the bubble of SF and fly down to GA three times a year. But at least in my lifetime and my experience, racism has always been small scale. It’s white families moving out of neighborhoods to avoid the brown people, or somebody with some petty grievance about losing his job or not getting a promotion or getting cut off in traffic or trash on the street and using race as a justification.

    As far as I can see, it’s only after the fact — when people are trying to come up with some solution for some social ill, or an explanation for a court ruling, riot, disaster, or failure of a community — that people bring race into the picture.

    So at what level did race cause the reaction and mishandling of the disaster? Did someone actually say, “Those people are mostly black and they deserve it, so we won’t help?” Was it longer-term cutting funding and not sending support to make sure that the levees were secure and the city was safe, because it’s a predominately black constitutency? Are we supposed to believe that it was subliminal? What’s the mind-set here?

  3. I do believe that in a majority of cases, racism is–not subliminal–but almost unconscious. I do think that the Powers that Be looked at where the flood was happening, saw that the majority of the people affected were poor AND black, and took their time. Were they conciously thinking: “Those are black people and they deserve it”? No. But I DO think that the minute they understood that most of the people being affected were NOT rich and white, they reacted differently than they would have if they were.

    While it does sound ridiculous to think that somehow race had something to do with the levees breaking (and according to “60 minutes” and some other news sources, the levees held up–it was the flood-walls that broke. But of course, it’s all part of the same system, and is ultimately neither here or there) but I, again, do think that race (and economics) did play a part in how much money was given to the City. Politicians don’t have to worry about pleasing communities that don’t have deep pockets.

    I’m not black so I can’t speak from personal experiences of racism. But I don’t think that racism is small-scale. At ALL. I think it’s ingrained, and insidious, and it’s only at times like this that it really becomes glaringly apparent.

    I’ve never been good at arguing a political position, so maybe I should just stop. Plus, I don’t want to appear to be one those people who are just “looking for angles,” because, again, I don’t think race was the ONLY cause of the government’s piss-poor response.

    And anyone who does think that is a….what’s the opposite of a Pollyanna?

  4. A cynic?

    I really don’t know what to think. After looking around and seeing this, I feel just gross being associated with people who are saying the same thing I am.

    The only thing that still seems true to me is that every time you look at people in need as “black” (or in the case of last year’s tsunami, “Asian”) instead of just “people,” that’s racist. Even if we think we have people’s best interests at heart — it just becomes “we need to draw attention to the plight of the black people” instead of “we need to help.”

    And instead of its dissolving away and becoming the non-issue it deserves to be, it just keeps getting pulled back up to the forefront and it, for lack of a better word, colors our perceptions of what’s really important. But I dunno — maybe that’s as simple-minded as calling for hugs and a group sing-along, or maybe it’s as evil and self-serving as the press secretary shouting out “blame game” at everyone.

  5. Hi there. As much as it pains me to say – I definitely think race was an issue. I don’t believe Bush’s daydreams involve genocide of non-white poor people or anything. But I do feel like systematic negligence and insanely irrational allocation of federal funds point to one thing in particular – if you don’t care about folks, you don’t protect them. You ignore them. They are non-people, and don’t deserve your $ or your thoughts.

    This is obviously very complicated, and I’m just a gal who reads the news and forms my opinions… I understand that decisions are made at the highest levels and often all we can really do is react. But the images I’m seeing – they make me very angry, and they make me feel like, perhaps after all, we haven’t really come that far in improving the lot of black folks in this country.

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