Saturday, September 03, 2005

Vicissitudes: Race

Among other devastation, Katrina has ripped open the very deep fault line of race in this country. It's difficult to build communities of innovation or anything else when we have such different prisms through which we interpret the world around us.

Some see racism in the response to Katrina

Rev. Al Sharpton - "If we were not dealing with black people and poor people, we would not be dealing with this snail's pace reaction."

U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), (Congressional Black Caucus member) - "People see class, and they also see race. [The conditions in New Orleans] just tended to dramatize the plight of a segment of the population that has been left out and behind."

Jessie Jackson - "Today, as the President comes to Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi for his ceremonial trip to look at the victims of the devastation, he would do well to have a plan more significant than a ceremonial tour... His whole response is unacceptable. How can blacks be locked out of the leadership (of the relief), and trapped in the suffering? It is that lack of sensitivity and compassion that represents a kind of incompetence."

Kanye West (black rapper) - "I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family, it says they're looting. See a white family, it says they're looking for food... They've given them permission to go down and shoot us... George Bush doesn't care about black people."

David Billings (of the People's Institute, a 25-year-old New Orleans organization focused on ending racism) - "I do think the nation would be responding differently if they were white elderly and white babies actually dying on the street."

Yvette Brown (African-American evacuee from New Orleans) - "You want to know why all those black people are stuck down there dying? If they were white, they'd be gone. They'd be sending in an army of helicopters, jets and boats."

But others see it differently

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio
- "The issue is not about race right now. There will be another time to have issues about color."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - "That Americans would somehow, in a color-affected way, decide who to help and who not to help—I just don't believe it... [I will tour the devastated area on Sunday] "for a president who cares deeply about what is going on in the Gulf region but can't be everywhere... I think everybody's very emotional. It's hard to watch pictures of any American going through this. And yes, the African-American community has obviously been very heavily affected."

Edith Thibodeaux (African-American evacuee from New Orleans) - "I don't think it was racist. They were just trying to save the area for the tourists. It's about how much money they can make in this city. They don't care about us."

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