Like everyone else I watched in a state of horror as the US government turned its back on the people of New Orleans. Never in my life had I witnessed racism, and classism on such a large scale. To those who would say that racism is a thing of the past, or that we live in a post racial world, Katrina is all that I can respond.
Left to die in a cesspool of filthy water, New Orleans citizens did what they had to survive, but even amongst those that had been forced to stay behind, the media insisted on making racial distinctions. Even though many had cases of water, baby formula and diapers the black people we were told were looting. All the big networks wanted us to feel sympathy for the poor merchants who were losing potential profits because in a time of need the blacks were taking what was necessary. This was in sharp contrast to the whites who were portrayed as simply foraging necessary materials. Even in life and death situations whiteness always exists with the right to life. It made me wonder why they just didn't accuse blacks of stealing air to breathe as well.
While I fully admit that not everyone was taking supplies to survive, the idea that every single black person was "on the make" was simply portrayed to distract us from the criminal culpability of FEMA and the US government. Why should society care about the suffering that was happening to those born with melanin, when we all know that blacks are of little value to the world. Blacks are the criminals of the western world we are told, and this is used to justify the crimes committed against us.
We were guilty they told of us of taking that which did not belong to us and yet those who took the lives of innocent people and threatened them with sawed off shot guns now have their BBQ and smile.
"It was great!" said one vigilante. "It was like pheasant season in South Dakota. If it moved, you shot it...I am no longer a Yankee. I earned my wings."
A woman responded, "He understands the N word now. In this neighbourhood we take care of our own."
"Taking care of our own" particularly haunts me in that it asserts that colour is enough to ensure the erasure of the humanity of another being. After the media spent so much time criminalizing the actions of blacks during the aftermath of the Hurricane, where is the outcry for justice today? CNN, FOX, MSNBC, and CBS, were all guilty of the construction, and yet it is The Nation that is running with this story. Please read their groundbreaking story. Anderson and his compatriots have long since moved on to bigger and more important news, after all, what is justice for blacks that were terrorized when they were at their most vulnerable?
Day after day we are continually reminded that we do not matter by the refusal of the justice system, government, and the media to take seriously crimes that are committed against us. Unless you are pretty and white you can rest assured your story will be lost in oblivion. How many children of colour do you believe have gone missing while every major media outlet can only repeat the name Caylee? Whiteness gains nothing by admitting that we are not solely criminals, as such a thought would reduce their ability to use fear as a justification to continue perpetuate crimes against us. The vigilantes acted because of supposed fear of the great invading dark hordes.
It is time for justice. I am tired of seeing black lives devalued so that whiteness may live in comfort and supposed safety. What exactly gives whiteness the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness on the backs of others?
Please join us in calling on state and federal officials to investigate these brutal attacks and the conduct of Orleans Parish law enforcement agencies, and please ask your friends and family to do the same.
H/T JackandJill via an email from Kathy Spillman