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.