Sunday, September 01, 2013

Racial derangement marks responses eight years after the storm

“Hurricane Katrina” still occasions crazy responses with a racial tinge.

On August 29, 2005, the Category 3 storm drowned New Orleans and nearby areas of the Gulf Coast. Nearly 2000 persons perished in landfall’s wake. Municipal, state and national government responded miserably, leaving millions to fend for themselves without help for days. President George W. Bush’s inept disaster bureaucrats came under a media spotlight as the evacuation and aid effort stumbled repeatedly.

“Katrina” became a synonym for callous racist brutality inflicted on the Gulf Coast’s poor, heavily Black, population.

Recently Public Policy Polling plumbed the memories of some residents of Louisiana.

In answer to the question, "Who do you think was more responsible for the poor response to Hurricane Katrina: George W. Bush or Barack Obama?," 29 percent of a pool of Republican primary voters in Louisiana blamed Obama, who took office in 2009, and 28 percent blamed Bush, whose term lasted through 2008. Hurricane Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005., 8/21/13

In 2005, Barack Obama was still in his first year as a newly elected Senator from Illinois. What ails Louisiana poll respondents? The Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank asked the pollster:

"Obama derangement syndrome is running pretty high right now among a certain segment of the Republican base," Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, told me. "There's a certain segment of people who say, 'If you're going to give me the opportunity to stick it to Obama, I'm going to take it.'"

In other words, a large number of that 29 percent who said Obama was responsible for the Katrina response knew that he wasn't but saw it as a chance to register their displeasure with the president. Obama has driven a large number of Republican voters -- Jensen puts it at 15 percent to 20 percent of the overall electorate -- right off their rockers. …

It’s not hard to guess the race of this fraction of respondents. It is also worth noting that the guy who takes these measurements believes the incorrigibly racist fraction of the United States’ whole is “only” 15 to 20 percent.
The Institute for Southern Studies, by way of the Bridge the Gulf Project, provides another take on the eighth anniversary of Katrina. Derrick Christopher Evans is a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and he’s got some questions. Watch this:

… The word "hurricane" is from the Caribbean Islands, from the Taínos. It's an indigenous word -- huracán. Huracán was a deity, a god of chaos and destruction, that they celebrated. Why would they celebrate it? Because what it did was it blew out and eliminated the old, the weak, the dying, or whatever it didn't want to have stick around, to create new life. To them, it was like the god of creation.

And what burns me up to this day about the recent disasters in this part of Turtle Island, these disasters that have plagued the Gulf Coast haven't fulfilled that hope or promise of Huracán. I would have thought -- I did think, like a fool -- after Hurricane Katrina that the very best minds from academia, from every sector of American life, would have blown in to combine with the good that survived here to create a bold, better, and creative, sustainable, healthy future.

But in the aftermath of Katrina, and every day since then, and in the aftermath of BP, all of these emperors with no clothes, they can't get nothing right. Use total destruction, total chaos, to come back better, come back stronger. I mean, why waste a good huracán? Why waste a good BP oil disaster, you know?

Could it be that “they can’t get nothing right” because these disasters have overwhelmed the wrong people, poor and Black people?


Rain Trueax said...

One of our biggest problems is a nation is the way we congregate in like-minded communities, listen to like-minded voices and hence the 'other' is created and feared. Righties and lefties have the same problem as ethnicities with this. Last night I had an odd cream where I was staying with someone, returning back to that place, got on a bus going the right direction but ahead of my friends. Everybody on that bus was black. I had gotten on it talking to a nice black lady. As we all talked, everyone was friendly, surprised maybe that I was there but laughing, congenial. My only concern became that I wasn't sure I'd remember the right place to get off the bus as I hadn't been to that house very often. But why I dreamed all blacks, I don't know but it's been mostly my experience with black people-- friendly and congenial but too often we aren't around any to find that out and they aren't around us. For awhile we had a wonderful black family living in the house up the road from us. It was very disappointing when they moved because they were the best ever for looking after our place when we were gone. We'll never have better neighbors but they were the only black family out this far.

It's isolation from each other that often leads to being used by the 'powers' to get us to do what they want and I think that explains a lot of what's going on with Republicans. The ones who do get out, listen to other ideas, they aren't part of that radicalized 20% who don't.

There is no real solution to this although blogs could help except how many people read (for long anyway) and comment on blogs with which they disagree. I've tried it and found it can get vicious. Finally I have felt it wasn't going to be good to stay and try to provide an alternative view when it infuriated the people there so much. Maybe more viciousness online than even in reality where there is not anonymity. If the Internet ends anonymity in writing and commenting on blogs, will some of the viciousness disappear? Or will it follow us home to harass? That's, of course, the concern and why a lot of us use names that aren't easily tracked back to our houses.... Did I just talk in circles? *s*

Classof65 said...

What it comes down to is recognizing that all races are made of people, just like ourselves, who are worried about the same things we are worried about and who are trying to get through life just as we are.

And, Rain, you are right when you say that we tend to isolate ourselves into groups that we feel comfortable with rather than to mix with others.

This really came home to me in the late 60s and early 70s when I worked in the laboratory of a large metropolitan hospital in the Mid-west. Many of us had attended schools that were essentially segregated because they were neighborhood schools and there were no black people or Hispanics then living in the suburbs. But in the workplace we all came together from all parts of the city and we learned that people of color were so similar to ourselves and that we formed many close friendships with people that we would never have met if we hadn't worked side-by-side with them.

It was an eye-opener for all of us and, I believe, forwarded the cause of civil rights more than anything else that had happened in our lives.

Unfortunately the 1% will never be placed in that situation since they don't have to associate with anyone except other 1%-ers...

janinsanfran said...

I've been fortunate to work extensively in many settings where there were many people of all colors -- and where some who were "not white" were in charge.

Like you Rain, I actually try to read some sites that I disagree with, though I seldom comment. I do think all of us, of whatever color, can work to link to and promote perspectives from people who are not just like ourselves. It's a big planet and we come in a lot of kinds. :-)

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