Sunday, September 04, 2005

Another Good Post From Horrowitz

Is Katrina Racist?
Al Sharpton showed up on Keith Olbermann's "Countdown" on MSNBC last night, and the pair sounded a theme that's becoming depressingly familiar in the effort to demagogue hurricane Katrina:
Olbermann: I actually heard a commentator this afternoon--it was that Limbaugh--suggest that the issue of class and race in those who were left behind in New Orleans was irrelevant, because, as he put it, those people were not forced to live there and they weren't bused into New Orleans.
And I was thinking, A, this guy is even more clueless than I thought he was, which is saying something. But, B, there are people who actually believe that. How do you respond to them? How do you explain to them what the truth is? . . .
Sharpton: . . . The real question is not only those that didn't get out. The question is why has it taken the government so long to get in. I feel that, if it was in another area, with another economic strata and racial makeup, that President Bush would have run out of Crawford a lot quicker and FEMA would have found its way in a lot sooner.
In truth, Katrina's devastation was spread out over a huge area, not just the city of New Orleans with its majority-black population. The Associated Press quotes Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who lists four suburban parishes that, along with Orleans Parish (which is coterminous with New Orleans) were hit hard enough to need "long-term rebuilding."
Here are the 2000 census's racial breakdowns of the populations of those five Louisiana parishes, along with Mississippi's coastal counties, which suffered a direct hit:
Parish or county
Jefferson, La.
Orleans, La.
Plaquemines, La.
St. Bernard, La.
St. Tammany, La.
Hancock, Miss.
Harrison, Miss.
Jackson, Miss.
The New York Times notes that among those who lost homes in Mississippi were Rep. Gene Taylor, a Democrat, and Sen. Trent Lott, a Republican--both persons of pallor and neither one of whom can be called downtrodden. Rep. Bobby Jindal, a Republican from Kenner, La. (in Jefferson Parish), doesn't even know if his house is still standing. "Jefferson Parish as we knew it is gone forever," Reuters quotes parish president Aaron Broussard as saying.
Though Katrina is an equal-opportunity destroyer, the news media's coverage of the disaster has centered on the city of New Orleans--which is understandable, given that that is the center of the metropolis, that it is densely populated, and that it is 80% underwater. That means the faces of the suffering that we have seen have mostly been black ones. And so what? These are fellow human beings and fellow Americans; the color of their skin makes their misery no more or less heartbreaking, and their rescue no more or less urgent.
Yet two days ago, Jack Shafer of Slate complained that journalists were ignoring race: "In the their frenzy to beat freshness into the endless loops of disaster footage that have been running all day, broadcasters might have mentioned that nearly all the visible people left behind in New Orleans are of the black persuasion." Soon enough, CNN picked up the theme, followed today by the New York Times and USA Today.
This emphasis on race makes us very uneasy, and the opening paragraph of that USA Today editorial illustrates why:
Although TV correspondents covering Hurricane Katrina avoid commenting on the obvious, their cameras hold back nothing. The people who couldn't or wouldn't leave New Orleans are overwhelmingly poor and black. As are the looters.
Now, there are looters and there are looters. Many commentators have observed that stealing the necessities of life when there is no alternative is forgivable, even justifiable. But the same can't be said for using a disaster as an opportunity to filch luxury goods.
There also are reports of criminality that goes far beyond theft. "We have individuals who are getting raped, we have individuals who are getting beaten," New Orleans police chief Eddie Compass tells the Associated Press. The Voice of America tells of "roving gangs of armed delinquents who are sometimes interfering with the relief operations." In one case, across the Mississippi in Gretna, "Tenet Healthcare Corp. asked Louisiana state police to help evacuate Meadowcrest Hospital after armed bandits attempted to hijack a truck carrying food, water and drugs in the predawn hours on Thursday," the Chicago Tribune reports.
Avarice and depravity are human failings, but our race-obsessed liberal friends may be contributing to the notion that they are racial ones.

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