White folks find…Black folks loot


Warning: My comments here may offend some folks.

The Malcolm X side of me is bursting at the seams to come out. I watched, of all things, the O’Reilly Factor last night. That dude got me real upset with the way he was talking about the ‘poor’ leadership of the mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, in comparison to the ‘strong’ leadership of former mayor of New York, Rudolf Guliani. Of course he never puts these things in context. Mayor Guliani didn’t have to deal with complete breakdown of an entire city. New York City wasn’t deemed ‘uninhabitable’ on 9/11. But what has really gotten my goat is the way valid criticism of racism and classicism has been deemed ‘the blame game’. Such rhetoric simply excuses racism and classism. Such rhetoric of indifference just re-inforces to many people how racist and classist this society is. Presuppostions and practices that undergird American society.

So…I found a quote from Malcolm X that addresses the ‘blame game’ rhetoric. Rhetoric that is indifferent to those that are asking and crying out “Why?”…why was the Federal gov’t almost five days late in sending in the National Guard? Malcolm X has a few words to the detractors that would attempt to re-define valid outcrys as playing the ‘blame game’:

“When a man is hanging on a tree and he cries out, should he cry out unemotionally? When a man is sitting on a hot stove and he tells you how it feels to be there, is he supposed to speak without emotion? This is what you tell black people in this country when they begin to cry out against the injustices they’re suffering. As long as they describe these injustices in a way that makes you believe you have another 100 years to rectify the situation, then you don’t call that emotion. But when a man is on a hot stove, he say, ‘I’m coming up. I’m getting up. Violently or non-violently doesn’t even enter the picture – I’m coming up you understand’.”

I don’t normally post current events. One reason being that fofillions of blogs normally keep people up to date on current events. But I feel compelled to generate some discussion around issues of race and class in our society. The wake of hurricane Katrina has left many people in a very desperate situation.

**That last sentence woefully falls short of describing the tragedy that is taking place right now before our very eyes.**

9/11 happened and the President was there the same day (or maybe the next). Katrina happened…and after alot of criticism and complete community breakdown the President shows up days later.

Does this speak to how our society processes class and race? When poor blacks ‘loot’ and white folks ‘find’? I read an article this morning discussing the comments made by conscious rapper Kanye West about the president. I know NBC has to save face by dis-associating itself from what it described as ‘one man’s opinion’. Such rhetoric rings hollow in the ears of many black folks. The irony is that this was not one man’s opinion. It was millions of people’s opinion about the President. That’s why almost the entire black population didn’t vote for him (80-85%). THEY don’t think he cares for them. I know…I know what about Powell and Rice? That’s another whole discussion. I am not saying I know for sure the President ‘likes’ or ‘dislikes’ poor black folks…honestly I don’t care if he does or does not…but as the President I’d think he would have handled this whole situation a little better. I have to give the President credit…he does admit that relief efforts were ‘inadequate’. I would probably would have described this in a more emotive and scathing way than ‘inadequate’ but I understand why he used that word. You have to think about the utility of your words when you are a politician.

But on the flip side. I understand some of the motivation (not all of it because of the history of this country I am suspicious…rightfully so, I think) of those that would say…let’s side step the “blame” issue for the moment and save lives. I agree that we should save lives. But let those who are crying out for justice and for heads make that decision for themselves. If some black folks want to play the blame game…then let them. No…I said that wrong. Black folks shouldn’t have to have the media, gov’t, and folks embodying indifference ‘let’ them do anything. They should be ‘allowed’ to cry out for justice and ask the President ‘why’ he was late.

But at the end of the day lives need to be saved. If anything New Orleans reveals how this country has yet to deal with its indifference to the poor and people of color.

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16 thoughts on “White folks find…Black folks loot

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  1. It seems to me that the words of Lamentations and the Psalms are appropriate here. The poor should cry out, the suffering should moan.

    The “blame the victim” syndrome has been present in our country for a long time. This is just another example.

  2. ant,

    i wrote the response below to a dialogue on my blog…

    i see a couple of tensions inherent in this situation. is it still possible for people to raise issues of class/race neglect with out being seen as detracting from other immediate issues? the other issue is media portrayal of Blacks and Whites who face like situations, but the latter’s situation for some reason can be portrayed as more dire. I’m wondering if we as a country are somewhat desensitized to the pain of the margins, since we tend to be inundated with images of the ghetto and third world countries through the media where suffering is considered almost normative.

    one more thing: historically we tend to blame the poor, Black or White. People were quick to accuse people of being ignorant for staying behind after the Hurricane warnings. What they didn’t mention was that due to poverty, tens of thousands of these folks did not own cars.

    jose h.

  3. The media should be commended for actually being journalists for once and telling it like it is. Black people in America, America! Are left for dead and ignored by their own government. The same government that supposedly will send democracy to the far reaches of the globe. Please!

  4. Kanye is a “celebrity” who thinks he has the right to use his over-inflated status to “move” people to action-his critical and negative words will only move people to anger and negative behavior-HE DID NOT HAVE ONE WORD OF HOPE OR ENCOURAGEMENT FOR “HIS PEOPLE” (“your people”, “my people”-that’s the attitude that has lead to black/white blaming-we should be “Americans”)–if your criticizm is not constructive, you have wasted your breath and my time—

    The LOCAL authorities of New Orleans are not without blame for this disaster and for the thousands of stranded and struggling victims-they obviously did not have a first response plan for their own people, which any responsible city has-YOU CAN BET THE MAYOR WAS ONE OF THE FIRST CITIZENS USHERED OUT OF TOWN, SO I GUESS THE MOST IMPORTANT BLACK MAN WAS SAVED-police officers have turned in their badges, local rescue workers have refused (understandably) to go out looking for survivors because they have been shot at, thereby handing the town and surrounding areas over to the worst element of the city (with a notoriously high crime rate already)and to the gangs and violent offenders who wanted to stay behind to do what they are doing now-looting and tearing down what little was left of the city-

    People of any color taking food, water and diapers from local stores are trying to SURVIVE– LOOTERS ARE GRABBING TEN PAIRS OF JEANS AND FIVE PAIRS OF NIKE’S TO PUT IN THE CADILLAC THEY STOLE FROM THE CAR DEALER DOWN THE STREET, AFTER THE STOPPED INTO THE LOCAL JEWELRY STORE TO PICK UP THAT DIAMOND TENNIS BRACELET THEY HAVE ALWAYS WANTED…you do not need jeans and five pairs of Nike’s to survive (one pair of shoes maybe, but greed is even uglier when it shows itself in these hard times)

    The government is not the ultimate answer whenever tragedy strikes–they are not our keepers–everyone involved in these disasters needs to be more verbally greatful for the help and support that local and national church groups, agencies and communities are providing–when the local authories bail out (as New Orleans did in a large part)and federal responders need a few days to coordinate and get to the afflicted area, the church groups and citizens of this country are who we should look to for support- and, with much thanks, they do show that support in more than generous ways, opening their homes and lives to help people they don’t know–

    IF THE MEDIA KEEPS THE COUNTRY FOCUSED ON ONLY THE NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF THIS EVENT, WE WILL HAVE MISSED A BEAUTIFUL OPPORTUNITY
    TO FOCUS ON AMERICANS AT THEIR BEST, HELPING THEIR FELLOW AMERICANS AND RECEIVING GRATITUDE FROM THOSE THEY HELP FOR THAT GIFT OF CARING.

    NEGATIVITY IS AN EMOTIONAL MAGNET THAT WILL ONLY DRAG YOU DOWN AND KEEP YOU THERE!!!!!(and those around you)

    God Bless and Keep all of the victims, aid workers, National Guardsmen and women, and those donating time, money and goods to be a part of the solution.

    God Bless President Bush, because whether you voted for him or not, or like him or not, he needs support to keep making the decisions that will keep this country strong and moving forward.

    STOP THE NEGATIVITY-STOP THE BLAME-WHEN PEOPLE ARGUE ABOUT WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN DONE BETTER, LITTLE GETS DONE NOW!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Here’s the thing: the fact that racism still exists in America is no top secret. the fact that the poor is not a priority of this Administration is not news either. and when the “race issue” is brought up, mainstream America is automatically on the defensive. so there is going to be the bickering back and forth as usual. but that is one of the legacies America is least proud about (or should be)

    NOW, as argue about race, OD on CNN and the like and watch as officials play the blame game, my only fear is a loss of perspective occuring. Emotions are of course running high…and what is to be expected when you see children and grandparents that could be yours dying in what is supposed to be the most powerful country in the world.

    The fact remains, however, is the policies of this Administration has steadily come up with ways to chip away at the safety nets created by government to help those in need. Even before this catastrophe, the poverty rate has steadily risen each year, millions are still uninsured, affordable housing is nearly extinct and homelessness was never an issue that made headlines. The unfortunate part is, for other complex reasons, black people happen to suffer in disproportionate numbers in almost all of these categories.

    NOW, America officially one of the largest socio-economic crisis on its hands in history and my only hope is we do the right thing and get our officials get their priorities straight.

  6. Here’s some of what I said on Jose and Mayra’s blog about the situation –

    “Ok, I have some more comments that may be seen as politically incorrect in our current society…
I think that on some level it may be easier to look at a tragedy in another country and feel badly for it’s victims – to be compelled to raise money, get a benefit concert going, and create a cause. This may be easier to handle than our country’s present situation because in helping tsunami victims or feeding the starving in Africa, we have a superior stance. We are Americans and as a country we have the wealth to help others. Unconsciously the attitude says, “ We have our act together and can help you little poor people.” Better yet, we are helping a poor country out of a situation that was not our making. It is pure benevolence on our part. However, to look at the glaring reality of poverty here in our own country and the fact that we as Americans are a part of the creation of this reality, even if in being complacent –well, that can cause anyone discomfort. To be faced with the fact that this country however great still has some work to do, and the fact that the American dream is not a reality to every American is disturbing for many and hard to accept and acknowledge.”


    I also think it is important not only for there to be dialogue, despite the defensiveness and anger that comes with it, but there is also the need for all people to take responsibility for what is going on. No doubt inequality exists, racism exists, and because of that we need to get involved in creating change, in taking advantage of the fact that we can vote, that we can lend a hand – if even in our own neighborhood. We need to tell others what is going on and work to be informed people. While one person may think that they are just a small voice, if we come together and step up, a difference can be made.

  7. I posted this on my blog last night…

    These words by Martin Luther King Jr. seem to resonate right now in the world’s present situation.

    The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty. – Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967.

    Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.

- Martin Luther King, Jr., speech, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, August 16, 1967.

    Many of the ugly pages of American history have been obscured and forgotten….America owes a debt of justice which it has only begun to pay. If it loses the will to finish or slackens in its determination, history will recall its crimes and the country that would be great will lack the most indispensable element of greatness–justice. 

- Martin Luther King, Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967.

  8. >>STOP THE NEGATIVITY-STOP THE BLAME-WHEN PEOPLE ARGUE ABOUT WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN DONE BETTER, LITTLE GETS DONE NOW!!!!!!!!!!

    In my almost 20 years of business experience and 30 years of political observing (yes, I was a geeky kid), when people start saying, “Let’s not play the blame game”, they’re covering something up—in this case, it’s the piss-poor response by their President and his hand-picked people. The only way that there is a response happening at this moment is because people said, “Where the hell is the government!” 3 days ago. So, don’t give us that ‘stop complaining’ bullshit. It worked.

    Ant, I’ve been waiting to hear your voice on this. It strikes me of institutional racism, plain and simple. I’ve been really appreciative of two conservatives on MSNBC, Joe Scarborough (former Republican representative from Florida) and, of all people, Tucker Carlson. Both of them have just plain laid into the gov’t. I’ve been wondering if Tucker has been having a conversion of sorts as he has spent days in the midst of the chaos. Also, I caught an interview of one of the LA Senators by Anderson Cooper in which he just ripped her a new one.

    But sadly, I think those are exceptions. You noted Bill O’Reilly’s response. Fortunately, I do not get Fox in my cable package. But I’ve heard Rush and many bloggers. First they start with the “let’s not play the blame game” tactic. Then they start saying, “Why did those people stay?” It’s despicable.

    I’m grieving right now. I’m grieving my own role in institutional racism. I’m grieving the Church’s role, particularly the Evangelical church’s role in theologizing tax cuts, individualism, the notion of the “worthy poor”, and capitalism. I’m grieving the lack of voices I hear form Evangelical leaders right now.

    -Zossima, http://www.forgettingourselves.com

  9. Most of the people who were left in New Orleans did not steal tv sets and dvd players. Most of them were not shooting at rescue workers. They were victims in the truest sense of that word, and for several days they were left for dead. Many blamed them for their plight, even blaming the actions of a few on them. This is madness. God is going to judge us on this.

  10. Pertaining to the comment above that used an obtuse use of caps, I’ve never seen such a negative post against negativism in my life 🙂

    On a positive note, thanks for this post, Anthony.

  11. Anthony, thanks for putting this out. It was brought to my attention at the blog I frequent – addisonrd.com. I was going to say that as a white American it’s usually my habit to keep my mouth shut about issues of racism (since white priviledge gives me nothing to complain about), but that’s not the truth, really. I have quite a lot to say about how I’m convinced that racism is real, alive and abundant in this country. I cannot, CANNOT fathom how this is any big secret, especially in light of the many, many tragedies that occurred in Louisiana.

    Caucasians who fold their arms and claim that racism has been “taken care of” in this nation and can’t figure out why the African-American community is so negative – always on the lookout for something to complain about – absolutely floor me with their willful ignorance. To think that an entire culture in our country is just scratching around to keep things negative is sheer stupidity. Comletely illogical. It grieves me to the bone, and I have no idea how to help.

    I was hoping that what happened in New Orleans and the fact that members of the African-American community weren’t hesitating to call America on it would blow the whole thing wide open – get just a little more reconciliation and dialogue going (and who knows? Maybe even public acknowledgement of the black community’s plight from the federal government? Nah…) before we sink back into complacency. I still pray for it.

    Cerise

  12. Soo…I am guessing this is definately a moderated forum?

    I see no representation from the other side. The side that understands the competitive nature of the human race.

    I was born white, in a “chocolate” neighborhood. Do any of you think that black racism against whites, Asians, Latinos or any other tribe exists in todays America? Believe me, it does.

    Also, I see those members of the African American community who still walk around with a chip on thier shuolder as having the same psychosis as a self-conscious fat person, a lady with a single breast b/c of a mastectomy, or a young guy with male-pattern baldness. Everywhere you go, you think people are staring at you because of what you think is wrong with your appearance.

    That paranoia shows brighter than your skin color.

    Its easy to blame your own delusions on what you percieve someone may think about you. Maybe you are right – but you are probably wrong.

    Here’s the point, IT DOENST MATTER WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK. Why the preoccupation?

    for example: Just because you are shadowed in a department store, doesnt mean you are being singled out because of the color of your skin. But it sure is easy to think that way, and grow bitter about it.
    That is simply weakness of the mind.

    And even if you are being shadowed because you look different. so what. Disregard the neanderthal that is doing it for what he/she is worth.

    Also – it is not the Federal governments job to take control of any State unless the State asks for it. The blame for the New Orleans situation should fall first on Ray Nagan, and second on Kathleen Blanco.

    States are sovereign. They are not ruled by the federal governement, only unified under it.

    How can you blame Bush for the failings of the local government?
    Would you if he was not caucasion?
    Ask yourself that.

    What TV channel gave you your opinion?

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