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A Nation's Castaways

Excellent essay in the Washington Post:

A Nation's Castaways

By Lynne Duke and Teresa Wiltz

On TV, we watch them: His braids are flying above his head and he's got a wild
look on his face. He's running, one arm clutching a load of looted clothes, the
other reaching back to tug at his pants, which are in danger of sliding past his
rump. She's crying and forlorn and too young to be carrying a baby in her arms,
but carrying one she is, and both are dirty and sweaty and hungry, reduced to an
animal-like state of waiting and starving and begging for help. We see them
through our respective prisms of race, and call them "refugees," as if they are
foreigners in their own land.

They are the Other, these victims of Katrina.

And in this country, the Other is black. Poor. Desperate.

Mainstream America too often demonizes the Other because, well, we've been
conditioned to do so. And because it's easier to put people in a box and then
shove it in the corner, away from view. Then it becomes their problem, not ours.
To talk about race, for those who are weary of it, is to invite glazed-over eyes
and stifled yawns -- or even hostility.

But Katrina blew open the box, putting the urban poor front and center, with
images of once-invisible folks pleading from rooftops, wading through flooded
streets, starving at the Superdome and requiring a massive federal outlay of
resources. Or dead, wheelchairs pushed up against the wall, a blanket thrown
over still bodies. The Other is there, staring us in the face, exposing our
issues on an international stage. It is at once an embarrassment -- how did we
go from can-do to can't-do-for-our-own? -- and a challenge, critics charge: How
do we stop ignoring the folks in the box, the inner-city destitute, and realize
that their fate is ours as well?

Poor black people, says Lani Guinier, a Harvard University law professor, are
"the canary in the mine. Poor black people are the throwaway people. And we
pathologize them in order to justify our disregard."

But, she says, "this is not just about poor black people in New Orleans. This
is about a social movement, with an administration that is bent on weakening the
capacity of the national government to act. . . . I hope this is a wake-up call
to all of America. To see this as the tip of the iceberg, the thin edge of the
wedge. We ignored the early warning signals. But this is another early warning
that we are ill prepared to function as a society."

Just as the United States was embarrassed globally by its ugly tradition --
racism -- being exposed during the civil rights movement, it is now shamed again
by "the spectacle of a Baghdad on the Mississippi River and our own people being
so poor and so destitute and so helpless at a time when we are talking about
trying to spread democracy and curb looting in Baghdad," says Jim Sleeper, a
lecturer in political science at Yale University.

Jesse Jackson describes the New Orleans convention center, where tens of
thousands live in fetid conditions, as "the hull of a slaveship."

Inside the proverbial slaveship are the "captives," who have been described as
running completely amok. But witness the man who feels so guilty about the pita
bread, water and juice that he'd taken from a Wal-Mart to feed his family that
he kept a list -- so he can pay it back later.

"I feel like an American again," the man says on TV after help began to arrive
on Friday. "I thought my country had abandoned me."

But also among the abandoned was the young white woman holding her sick baby
and crying as she says, "It's not about low-income, it's not about rich people,
poor people, it's about people." It sounds more like a wish than a reality.

The fact is, the most vulnerable victims of Katrina, though largely black, are
also poor whites and Latinos. The poor are paying the highest price.

So it is no wonder that Katrina has re-ignited the debate over race and class.

There are those who argue, as does Manning Marable, director of Columbia
University's Center for Contemporary Black History, that "the class element is
inextricably bound to the race element." It has always been so because of the
way policies and laws historically have been framed.

Roger Wilkins, the George Mason University historian, sees the historic sweep
of the legacy of slavery in the helpless straits of folks marooned by the storm.
Seen through that arc of history, Wilkins says that Monday's unmasking of the
vast inequality within New Orleans is a "day a reckoning" for the United States:
of reckoning with a history of ignoring the poorest of the poor that dates back
to our earliest days.

"The worst education in the country is ladled out to the poor kids in big
cities. And we're incarcerating black males at a higher rate than any time in
our history. After all this time, one in four black people is still
impoverished," says Wilkins.

The history of marginalizing black folk in America, especially poor ones, runs
so deep that it occurs like second nature. It is one reason, say several
prominent black intellectuals, that the response to the devastation of Katrina
was so slow.

Racism runs "so deep that the folks who are slow to respond can't see it," says
Russell Adams, professor of Afro-American studies at Howard University. "That's
the unperceived character of racial behavior, of what I would call hidden racism
where you don't know that this situation has a racial character to it, just like
fish have trouble defining water."

Scholars are in agreement that race has shaped the lives and prospects of
African Americans for generations. They part company on the extent to which
racism continues to hinder black prospects in America today.

Many conservative thinkers espouse a race-neutral analysis. Racism doesn't
cause poverty, they say, poverty is the result of a pattern of dependency that
has set in among poor blacks.

In New Orleans, "you are dealing with the permanently poor -- people who don't
have jobs, are not used to getting up and organizing themselves and getting
things done and for whom sitting and waiting is a way of life," says Linda
Chavez, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity and a former head of the
U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

"This is a natural disaster that is exacerbated by the problems of the
underclass. The chief cause of poverty today among blacks is no longer racism.
It is the breakdown of the traditional family."

John McWhorter, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, cautions against
the use of the "nasty, circular, unprovable" argument of race because "this is a
matter of the incompetence of the American infrastructure. It's not a matter of
somebody in Washington deciding we don't need to rush [to New Orleans] because
they're all poor jungle bunnies anyway."

Everyone, it seems, wants to weigh in on the subject.

There is the white TV anchor who muses that the left-behind are living paycheck
to paycheck and therefore could not afford to evacuate, and how that
paycheck-to-paycheck hustle is not a part of the white American experience.
(Tell that to the scores of middle-class whites struggling to service their
debt.) Or stand-up comic Bill Maher riffing on the subtleties of 21st century
racism and the hurricane. And rapper Kanye West declaring at a concert
fundraiser for victims, "George Bush doesn't care about black people." He said
America is set up "to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off as slow
as possible."

This feeling of being disregarded is pervasive in the African American
community, where old wounds still sting. Witness a "Saturday Night Live" skit
from 1998, where Samuel L. Jackson and Tracy Morgan indulge in a bit of
hyperbole, playing African Americans in the fifth class steerage of the Titanic.
Everyone was rescued before them -- even the furniture.

While that may have been comedy, its message is conveyed in all kinds of
real-life ways. Deborah Willis, photographer and professor of the arts at New
York University, laments some of the images coming out of New Orleans.

The frequent replay of what has become an iconic looting photo -- the guy with
the flying braids and falling pants -- "desensitizes the viewer of finding
compassion for what happened to the thousands of people who have died or who
have suffered," she says.

It's an us- vs .-them kind of image, she says, and "a racialized image because
of the way it's been used and reused over again."

Ian Haney Lopez, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley,
agrees: "If you see a photo from New Orleans of a white person with a shotgun,
you think, 'Defending property.' If the news flashes a picture of a black person
with a shotgun, you think, 'Looter.' "

Then, too, for many people of color, those images come loaded with baggage, in
particular, a reflexive sense of guilt, the fear that the looting African
Americans will be used to serve as a stand-in for the race as a whole. Ward
Connerly admits that he felt a twinge when he saw the images: "I thought this is
only going to fuel the perception, there those people go again. It was not as a
-- quote -- black man, it was as a citizen who hates to see that kind of thing,
but being fully aware of how it plays out in the minds of people."

The image of the ghoulish Other arose in natural disasters more than a century
ago. In the Chicago Fire of 1871, the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 and the San
Francisco Earthquake of 1906, minority groups (Germans, African Americans and
Chinese) were rumored to be preying on white women by chewing on their fingers
to steal their jewelry. It's not such a stretch to see parallels in the
unconfirmed reports of roving bands of rapists in New Orleans.

So what lessons does New Orleans offer?

We are a multi-racial society, and indeed, New Orleans has historically been
famed for its racial mixing and matching and resulting complicated family lines.
Still, as a nation, we seem to keep aligning ourselves along strict black/white
lines, never mind the more complex, brown and beige reality.

Remember Guinier's black canary in the mine. And the troubling specter of the
federal government's seeming incompetence in the wake of a catastrophic national

"The lesson we can take from this is that the society cannot blithely ignore
extreme disparities in economic and social situations," Adams says.

Noel Ignatiev, author of "How the Irish Became White" and editor of Race
Traitor, a journal dedicated to the "New Abolitionism," suggests that the nation
is poised at a pivotal point. He sees an opportunity for a realignment of

"White is not a matter of color. White is a matter of a sense of entitlement, a
sense they are or ought to be entitled to specially protected place in society,"
he says. "But there are plenty of white folks on the bottom rung of society,
people for whom whiteness isn't doing much at all.

Some may be awakening to the notion there's no use clinging to an identity
that's doing them no good. If white folks start thinking of themselves as poor
and dispossessed instead of privileged, it will change the way they act. We will
see the beginnings of class conflict."
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-04-2005, 04:12 PM
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RE: A Nation's Castaways

Kanye West accuses Bush of ignoring black hurricane victims

Sunday, September 4, 2005 at 07:28 JST
WASHINGTON — Hip-hop artist Kanye West accused President George W Bush of not caring about black people on a live television fundraiser for victims of deadly Hurricane Katrina.

Visibly emotional, West broke from the script and attacked the president for the slow response to the humanitarian crisis in the majority black city.

"George Bush doesn't care about black people!" he said on the NBC show before the cameras cut to another host who put the fundraiser back on track.

West also slammed the media for how it had reported on the crisis.

"I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, 'They're looting.' You see a white family, it says, 'They're looking for food.' And, you know, it's been five days waiting for federal help because most of the people are black," he said.

In a statement released after the broadcast, NBC said the fundraiser "was a live television event wrought with emotion.

"Kanye West departed from the scripted comments that were prepared for him, and his opinions in no way represent the views of the networks," the company said.

"It would be most unfortunate if the efforts of the artists who participated tonight and the generosity of millions of Americans who are helping those in need are overshadowed by one person's opinion."

Sixty-seven percent of the population of New Orleans is African-American according to 2000 U.S. census figures. (Wire reports)

post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-04-2005, 04:17 PM
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RE: A Nation's Castaways

Inland area border sweeps targeted people based on race
By Brenda Gazzar, Staff Writer

A civil rights group contends that hundreds of government documents released on last summer's Border Patrol sweeps in inland areas "seem to confirm the agency targeted people based on race," though border officials vigorously dispute that claim.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed a lawsuit in December in an effort to obtain documents about a Temecula-based Mobile Patrol Unit that arrested more than 400 illegal immigrants in June 2004 in cities including Ontario, Fontana, Corona and Escondido.

The arrests took place 14 months ago at bus stops, street intersections and near supermarkets, evoking massive protests from some Latino activists and politicians, counterprotests from citizens calling for stricter immigration enforcement, and helping fuel the fires of an immigration debate increasingly thrust into the national spotlight.

ACLU of Southern California attorney Ranjana Natarajan says the agency is concerned about racial profiling for a number of reasons after reviewing the documents earlier this summer.

For example, Border Patrol agents suspected someone was not a U.S. citizen or legal resident simply because they responded to agents' inquiries in Spanish, she said.

"I spoke to them in English but they responded in Spanish. Because of this I questioned them about their citizenship," a form, dated June 3 and completed by a senior patrol agent, said.

In addition, Ranjana had concerns, she said, that day labor sites were targeted and that Border Patrol agents were seen in majority Latino neighborhoods and supermarkets. In one instance, agents went to a location because an unnamed U.S. citizen reported that undocumented aliens were being dropped off there.

"Racial profiling is never reasonable suspicion, and evidence of racial profiling can be based on language, ethnicity, appearance and even dress, and even location inside a city. But none of those things are enough by themselves to provide reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing," Natarajan said.

But T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said there are many reasons why people are approached in the first place, and responses in Spanish, for example, simply heighten suspicion. Not all reasons are listed in agent reports, he added.

"If you go back and read (the agent's) arrest report, you will find he wasn't arrested for speaking Spanish," Bonner said. "He was arrested for being in the country illegally."

The ACLU is now trying to obtain "tip sheets" from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees Border Patrol, that show phone calls and other tips related to these sweeps and evaluate their legitimacy, Natarajan said. Although border officials said the arrests were based on specific intelligence from local police agencies, nothing in the nearly 1,500 pages of documents released supports that claim, she said.

"The concern is such law enforcement actions should be targeted based on specific, cognizable and reliable tips and ... if U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents were also stopped and questioned, as (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) seem to admit they were, then the tips they use probably were not that reliable," Natarajan said.

At least 45 people questioned during the operations, or one in 10 people, were said to be legal permanent residents or U.S. citizens, according to the documents.

Bonner argued that 90 percent accuracy is "pretty darn good." More importantly, he said, it shows the system works.

"We didn't arrest people here ... who were actually here legally," he said. "Once it was determined that 10 percent were here legitimately, they said, "Have a nice day.'"

Despite the federal government's claims to the contrary, Ontario police officials have repeatedly denied providing intelligence to U.S. Customs and Border Protection last summer.

"We would not give out any intelligence information, especially on a random basis," said Ontario police Detective Diane Galindo.

Escondido police officials, however, said they did contact immigration officials last year with citizen complaints, which were followed up by Border Patrol last summer.

"If we believe that we have a congregation of illegal immigrants involved in crimes in a specific area, we would give that information to (immigration officials), and act with them in solving the problem," said Lt. David Mankin, investigations commander for the Escondido Police Department.

Documents obtained by the ACLU reveal that people were detained on streets in 12 cities - some as far as 250 miles from the border - in moving and parked cars, and at bus stations and intersections where day laborers congregate.

Of the 423 people arrested, 409 were Mexican nationals, and all but one of the arrested were men, according to ACLU data. Nearly 350 of those arrested were pedestrians approached by agents, arrested by the Mobile Patrol Group from June 1 through June 15, according to the ACLU data. Most of the remaining suspects were in vehicles when arrested.

The Border Patrol sweeps were halted after federal officials said the 12-member Temecula unit overstepped its boundaries by not notifying D.C. headquarters in advance, or coordinating such operations with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency charged with conducting interior immigration enforcement.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Mario Villarreal said racial profiling was "absolutely not" used by the Temecula station Mobile Patrol Group.

"Our Border Patrol agents are some of the most highly trained law enforcement officers in the world, and over 400 aliens who were illegally in the United States were arrested," he said.

The Mobile Patrol Group conducted their June operations in the following cities: Cainbrake, Corona, Escondido, Fontana, Ontario, Poway, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Pensaquitos, Rancho Santa Fe Farms, San Marcos, Temecula and Upland.

Brenda Gazzar can be reached by e-mail at brenda.gazzar@dailybulletin.com or by phone at (909) 483-9355.

post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-04-2005, 04:32 PM
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RE: A Nation's Castaways

The State and the Flood

by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

"No one can escape the influence of a prevailing ideology," wrote Ludwig von Mises, and Gulf Coast residents know precisely what it means to be trapped—ostensibly by a flood but actually by statist policies and ideological commitments that put the government in charge of crisis management and public infrastructure. For what we are seeing in New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast region is the most egregious example of government failure in the United States since September 11, 2001.

Mother Nature can be cruel, but even at her worst, she is no match for government. It was the glorified public sector, the one we are always told is protecting us, that is responsible for this. And though our public servants and a sycophantic media will do their darn best to present this calamity as an act of nature, it was not and is not. Katrina came and went with far less damage than anyone expected. It was the failure of the public infrastructure and the response to it that brought down civilization.

The levees that failed and caused New Orleans to be flooded, bringing a humanitarian crisis not seen in our country in modern times, were owned and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. The original levees surrounding this city below sea level were erected in 1718, and have been variously expanded since.

But who knew that a direct hit by a hurricane would cause them to break? Many people, it turns out. Ivor van Heerden of Louisiana State University, reports Newsday, "has developed flooding models for New Orleans, was among those issuing dire predictions as Katrina approached, warnings that turned out to be grimly accurate. He predicted that floodwaters would overcome the levee system, fill the low-lying areas of the city and then remain trapped there well after the storm passed – creating a giant, stagnant pool contaminated with debris, sewage and other hazardous materials."

Newsday goes on: "Van Heerden and other experts put some of the blame on the Mississippi River levees themselves, because they channel silt directly into the Gulf of Mexico that otherwise would stabilize land along the riverside and slow the sinking of the coastline."

He is hardly some lone nut. National Geographic ran a large article on the topic last year that begins with a war-of-the-worlds scenario that reads precisely like this week's news from New Orleans.
(Note from astris - Check out my thread on "GONE WITH THE WATER" on this P/CP board for that article)
It is the Army Corps of Engineers that has been responsible for the dwindling of the coastline that has required the levees to be constantly reinforced with higher walls. But one problem: no one bothered to do this since 1965. That's only the beginning of the problems created by the Corps' levee management, the history of which was documented by Mark Thornton following the last flood in 1999.

Only the public sector can preside over a situation this precarious and display utter and complete inertia. What do these people have to lose? They are not real owners. There are no profits or losses at stake. They do not have to answer to risk-obsessed insurance companies who insist on premiums matching even the most remote contingencies. So long as it seems to work, they are glad to go about their business in the soporific style famous to all public sectors everywhere.

And failure of one structure has highlighted the failures of other structures. The levees could not be repaired in a timely manner because roads and bridges built and maintained by government could not withstand the pressure from the flood. They broke down.

And again, it is critical to keep in mind that none of this was caused by Hurricane Katrina as such. It was the levee break that led to the calamity. As the New York Times points out: "it was not the water from the sky but the water that broke through the city's protective barriers that had changed everything for the worse…. When the levees gave way in some critical spots, streets that were essentially dry in the hours immediately after the hurricane passed were several feet deep in water on Tuesday morning."

Indeed, at 4pm on Monday, August 29, all seemed calm, and reports of possible calamity seemed overwrought. Two hours later the reports began to appear about the levee. A period of some twelve hours lapsed between when the hurricane passed through and when the water came rushing into the city. There is some dispute about precisely when the levees broke. Some say that they were broken long before anyone discovered it, which is another outrage. There was no warning system. There is no question that plenty of time was available between their breakage and the flooding to enable to people to make other arrangements—and perhaps for the levees to be repaired. People were relieved that the rain subsided and the effects of Katrina were far less egregious than anyone expected.

That's when the disaster struck. The municipal government itself relocated to Baton Rouge even as the city pumps failed as well. Meanwhile, the Army Corp of Engineers apparently had no viable plan even to make repairs. They couldn't bring in the massive barges and cranes needed because the bridges were down and broken, or couldn't be opened without electricity. For public relations purposes, they dumped tons of sand into one breach even as another levee was breaking. But even that PR move failed since most helicopters were being used to move people from spot to spot—another classic case of miscalculation. Many bloggers had the sense that the public sector essentially walked away.

But the police and their guns and nightsticks were out in full force, not arresting criminals but pushing around the innocent and giving mostly bad instructions. The 10,000 people who had been corralled into the Superdome were essentially under house arrest from the police who were keeping them there, preventing them even from getting fresh air. A day later the water and food were running out, people were dying, and the sanitary conditions becoming disastrous. Finally someone had the idea of shipping all these people Soviet-like to Houston to live in the Astrodome, as if they are not people with volition but cattle.

After evacuations, the looting began and created a despicable sight of criminal gangs stealing everything in sight as the police looked on (when they weren't joining in). Now, this scene offers its own lessons. Why don't looting and rampant criminality occur every day? The police are always there and so are the hoodlums and the criminals. What was missing that made the looting rampage possible was the bourgeoisie, that had either left by choice or had been kicked out. It is they who keep the peace. And had any stayed around to protect their property, we don't even have to speculate what the police would have done: Arrest them!

Now, in the coming weeks, as it becomes ever more obvious that the real problem was not the hurricane but the failure of the infrastructure to work properly, the political left is going to have a heyday (here too). They will point out that Bush cut spending for the Army Corp of Engineers, that money allocated to reinforcing the levees and fixing the pumps had been cut to pay for other things, that we are reaping what we sow from failing to support the public sector.

The ever-stupid right will come to the defense of Bush and the Iraq War that has completely absorbed this regime's attention, pointing out that Bush is actually a big and compassionate spender who cares about infrastructure, while demanding that people recognize his greatness, along with all the other pieties that have become staples of modern "conservatism."

But this is a superficial critique (and defense) that doesn't get to the root of the problem with public services. NASA spends and spends and still can't seem to make a reliable space shuttle. The public schools absorb many times more—thousands times more—in resources than private schools and still can't perform well. The federal government spends trillions over years to "protect" the country and can't fend off a handful of malcontents with an agenda. So too, Congress can allocate a trillion dollars to fix every levee, fully preventing the last catastrophe, but not the next one.

The problem here is public ownership itself. It has encouraged people to adopt a negligent attitude toward even such obvious risks. Private developers and owners, in contrast, demand to know every possible scenario as a way to protect their property. But public owners have no real stake in the outcome and lack the economic capacity to calibrate resource allocation to risk assessment. In other words, the government manages without responsibility or competence.

Can levees and pumps and disaster management really be privatized? Not only can they be; they must be if we want to avoid ever more apocalypses of this sort. William Buckley used to poke fun at libertarians and their plans for privatizing garbage collection, but this disaster shows that much more than this ought to be in private hands. It is not a trivial issue; our survival may depend on it.

It is critically important that the management of the whole of the nation's infrastructure be turned over to private management and ownership. Only in private hands can there be a possibility of a match between expenditure and performance, between risk and responsibility, between the job that needs to be done and the means to accomplish it.

The list of public sector failures hardly stops there. The outrageous insistence that no one be permitted to "gouge" only creates shortages in critically important goods and services when they are needed the most. It is at times of extreme need that prices most need to be free to change so that consumers and producers can have an idea of what is needed and what is in demand. Absent those signals, people do not know what to conserve and what to produce.

Bush was on national television declaring that the feds would have zero tolerance towards gouging, which is another way of saying zero tolerance toward markets. If New Orleans stands any chance of coming back, it will only be because private enterprise does the rebuilding, one commercial venture at a time. Bush's kind of talk guarantees a future of mire and muck, the remote possibility of prosperity and peace sacrificed on the altar of interventionism.

Moreover, every American ought to be alarmed at the quickness of officials to declare martial law, invade people's rights, deny people the freedom of movement, and otherwise trample on all values that this country is supposed to hold dear. A crisis does not negate the existence of human rights. It is not a license for tyranny. It is not a signal that government may do anything it wants.

This crisis ought to underscore a point made on these pages again and again. Being a government official gives you no special insight into how to best manage a crisis. Indeed the public sector, with all its guns and mandates and arrogance, cannot and will not protect us from life's contingencies. It used to be said that infrastructure was too important to be left to the uncertainties of markets. But if it is certainty that we are after, there is a new certainty that has emerged in American life: in a crisis, the government will make matters worse and worse until it wrecks your life and all that makes it worth living.

September 2, 2005

Copyright © 2005 LewRockwell.com
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RE: A Nation's Castaways

Calm down chief.........and put some ice on that right-click finger. How uncomfortable did Canuck Mike Myers look standing next to him?[:0]

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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-04-2005, 04:43 PM
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RE: A Nation's Castaways

© 2005 New York Times :
September 4, 2005

Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans?

La Jolla, Calif.

WHAT do people really know about New Orleans?

Do they take away with them an awareness that it has always been not only a great white metropolis but also a great black city, a city where African-Americans have come together again and again to form the strongest African-American culture in the land?

The first literary magazine ever published in Louisiana was the work of black men, French-speaking poets and writers who brought together their work in three issues of a little book called L’Album Littéraire. That was in the 1840’s, and by that time the city had a prosperous class of free black artisans, sculptors, businessmen, property owners, skilled laborers in all fields. Thousands of slaves lived on their own in the city, too, making a living at various jobs, and sending home a few dollars to their owners in the country at the end of the month.

This is not to diminish the horror of the slave market in the middle of the famous St. Louis Hotel, or the injustice of the slave labor on plantations from one end of the state to the other. It is merely to say that it was never all “have or have not� in this strange and beautiful city.

Later in the 19th century, as the Irish immigrants poured in by the thousands, filling the holds of ships that had emptied their cargoes of cotton in Liverpool, and as the German and Italian immigrants soon followed, a vital and complex culture emerged. Huge churches went up to serve the great faith of the city’s European-born Catholics; convents and schools and orphanages were built for the newly arrived and the struggling; the city expanded in all directions with new neighborhoods of large, graceful houses, or areas of more humble cottages, even the smallest of which, with their floor-length shutters and deep-pitched roofs, possessed an undeniable Caribbean charm.

Through this all, black culture never declined in Louisiana. In fact, New Orleans became home to blacks in a way, perhaps, that few other American cities have ever been. Dillard University and Xavier University became two of the most outstanding black colleges in America; and once the battles of desegregation had been won, black New Orleanians entered all levels of life, building a visible middle class that is absent in far too many Western and Northern American cities to this day.

The influence of blacks on the music of the city and the nation is too immense and too well known to be described. It was black musicians coming down to New Orleans for work who nicknamed the city “the Big Easy� because it was a place where they could always find a job. But it’s not fair to the nature of New Orleans to think of jazz and the blues as the poor man’s music, or the music of the oppressed.

Something else was going on in New Orleans. The living was good there. The clock ticked more slowly; people laughed more easily; people kissed; people loved; there was joy.

Which is why so many New Orleanians, black and white, never went north. They didn’t want to leave a place where they felt at home in neighborhoods that dated back centuries; they didn’t want to leave families whose rounds of weddings, births and funerals had become the fabric of their lives. They didn’t want to leave a city where tolerance had always been able to outweigh prejudice, where patience had always been able to outweigh rage. They didn’t want to leave a place that was theirs.

And so New Orleans prospered, slowly, unevenly, but surely — home to Protestants and Catholics, including the Irish parading through the old neighborhood on St. Patrick’s Day as they hand out cabbages and potatoes and onions to the eager crowds; including the Italians, with their lavish St. Joseph’s altars spread out with cakes and cookies in homes and restaurants and churches every March; including the uptown traditionalists who seek to preserve the peace and beauty of the Garden District; including the Germans with their clubs and traditions; including the black population playing an ever increasing role in the city’s civic affairs.

Now nature has done what the Civil War couldn’t do. Nature has done what the labor riots of the 1920’s couldn’t do. Nature had done what “modern life� with its relentless pursuit of efficiency couldn’t do. It has done what racism couldn’t do, and what segregation couldn’t do either. Nature has laid the city waste — with a scope that brings to mind the end of Pompeii.


I share this history for a reason — and to answer questions that have arisen these last few days. Almost as soon as the cameras began panning over the rooftops, and the helicopters began chopping free those trapped in their attics, a chorus of voices rose. “Why didn’t they leave?� people asked both on and off camera. “Why did they stay there when they knew a storm was coming?� One reporter even asked me, “Why do people live in such a place?�

Then as conditions became unbearable, the looters took to the streets. Windows were smashed, jewelry snatched, stores broken open, water and food and televisions carried out by fierce and uninhibited crowds.

Now the voices grew even louder. How could these thieves loot and pillage in a time of such crisis? How could people shoot one another? Because the faces of those drowning and the faces of those looting were largely black faces, race came into the picture. What kind of people are these, the people of New Orleans, who stay in a city about to be flooded, and then turn on one another?

Well, here’s an answer. Thousands didn’t leave New Orleans because they couldn’t leave. They didn’t have the money. They didn’t have the vehicles. They didn’t have any place to go. They are the poor, black and white, who dwell in any city in great numbers; and they did what they felt they could do — they huddled together in the strongest houses they could find. There was no way to up and leave and check into the nearest Ramada Inn.

What’s more, thousands more who could have left stayed behind to help others. They went out in the helicopters and pulled the survivors off rooftops; they went through the flooded streets in their boats trying to gather those they could find. Meanwhile, city officials tried desperately to alleviate the worsening conditions in the Superdome, while makeshift shelters and hotels and hospitals struggled.

And where was everyone else during all this? Oh, help is coming, New Orleans was told. We are a rich country. Congress is acting. Someone will come to stop the looting and care for the refugees.

And it’s true: eventually, help did come. But how many times did Gov. Kathleen Blanco have to say that the situation was desperate? How many times did Mayor Ray Nagin have to call for aid? Why did America ask a city cherished by millions and excoriated by some, but ignored by no one, to fight for its own life for so long? That’s my question.

I know that New Orleans will win its fight in the end. I was born in the city and lived there for many years. It shaped who and what I am. Never have I experienced a place where people knew more about love, about family, about loyalty and about getting along than the people of New Orleans. It is perhaps their very gentleness that gives them their endurance.

They will rebuild as they have after storms of the past; and they will stay in New Orleans because it is where they have always lived, where their mothers and their fathers lived, where their churches were built by their ancestors, where their family graves carry names that go back 200 years. They will stay in New Orleans where they can enjoy a sweetness of family life that other communities lost long ago.

But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us “Sin City,� and turned your backs.

Well, we are a lot more than all that. And though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.

Anne Rice is the author of the forthcoming novel “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.�
post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-04-2005, 04:49 PM
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RE: A Nation's Castaways

Mary Landrieu: I'll Punch Bush, 'Literally'
NewsMax.com Carl Limbacher
09/04/2005 7:19:18 AM PDT by Carl/NewsMax

Sen. Mary Landrieu threatened the president of the United States with physical violence on Sunday, saying that if he or any other government official criticizes New Orleans police for failing to keep civil order in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - "I might likely have to punch him - literally."

"If one person criticizes [our sheriffs], or says one more thing, including the president of the United States, he will hear from me - one more word about it after this show airs and I - I might likely have to punch him - literally," Landrieu railed on "ABC's "This Week."

It is illegal to threaten the president with physical violence.

The Louisiana Democrat blasted Bush for neglecting the New Orleans levees, and demanded that he stop using the disaster for "photo-ops."

"The president came here yesterday for a photo-op," Landrieu charged, while surveying the disaster scene via helicopter with "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos in tow. "He got his photo-op but we are never going to get this fixed if he does not send us help now."

Landrieu also blamed Bush for cutting funding for levee improvement, before bursting into tears on camera.

In recent days, Louisiana officials have been criticized for bungling evacuation and rescue efforts. One of those officials, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, is Sen. Landrieu's brother.
post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-04-2005, 08:00 PM
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RE: A Nation's Castaways

Alfa - 9/4/2005 6:49 PM

Mary Landrieu: I'll Punch Bush, 'Literally'
NewsMax.com Carl Limbacher
09/04/2005 7:19:18 AM PDT by Carl/NewsMax

Sen. Mary Landrieu threatened the president of the United States with physical violence on Sunday, saying that if he or any other government official criticizes New Orleans police for failing to keep civil order in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - "I might likely have to punch him - literally."

"If one person criticizes [our sheriffs], or says one more thing, including the president of the United States, he will hear from me - one more word about it after this show airs and I - I might likely have to punch him - literally," Landrieu railed on "ABC's "This Week."

It is illegal to threaten the president with physical violence.

The Louisiana Democrat blasted Bush for neglecting the New Orleans levees, and demanded that he stop using the disaster for "photo-ops."

"The president came here yesterday for a photo-op," Landrieu charged, while surveying the disaster scene via helicopter with "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos in tow. "He got his photo-op but we are never going to get this fixed if he does not send us help now."

Landrieu also blamed Bush for cutting funding for levee improvement, before bursting into tears on camera.

In recent days, Louisiana officials have been criticized for bungling evacuation and rescue efforts. One of those officials, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, is Sen. Landrieu's brother.
I'm just watching Meet the Press and I've just seen the president of Jefferson Parrish break down and sob because so many people have died due to the inaction and disorganization of our federal relief agenices. I want to punch someone at FEMA.
My sister-in-law works at a local emergency room and they received a busload of patients who were abandoned at a nursing home by the very people who are supposed to take care of them. Just left in the nursing home--no medicine, no care, nothing. I'd like to punch those people too.
However, I know my tiny, ineffectual fists wouldn't do near the harm I wish. So, right now, I'm going to do what I can to help in the crisis--donate money to the Red Cross, work extra hours mixing and delivering meds, donating clothes and housewares. And when the crisis is over I will be punching something--the button on the ballot box as I (and many others) vote to wrest this country out of the hands of the people who have fucked it up so royally
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-04-2005, 08:14 PM
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RE: A Nation's Castaways

Even then, it will take at least a generation to recover from the misdeeds of the asswipes-that-be. In the meantime, why is it so hard for people to work together toward a common goal? Is this the true legacy of the Bush administration?

"If spending money you don't have is the height of stupidity, borrowing money to give it away is the height of insanity." -- anon
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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 09-04-2005, 08:17 PM
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RE: A Nation's Castaways

GermanStar - 9/4/2005 10:14 PM

Even then, it will take at least a generation to recover from the misdeeds of the asswipes-that-be.
I know. One of the many reasons I won't have children. (Other reasons include snotty noses and cheese cracker crumbs in my Merc![:(!])
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