Saturday, September 03, 2005

This is not supposed to happen here.

We don't have a television, something for which I am frequently grateful. Right now, if we had one, it would have been on since the beginning of last weekend, when we started hearing about a big hurricane coming, somewhere down south. Every day, there has been something worse on the news, all of which you probably all know about, so what is there left to say?

There's something I'd like to know, though, that hasn't been discussed very much. By every account New Orleans had a narrow escape that nobody was expecting. The storm weakened and turned. They were expecting to be hit head-on with a category 5. That, clearly, would have drowned the entire city. So what were they--"they" in this case being FEMA--expecting? What is the good of a "mandatory evacuation" when 35% of a city's poorest (read: black) residents don't have access to cars, and--in a move that boggles the mind--Greyhound shut down on Saturday? There were something like 100,000 people left in the city when the storm hit, and they almost all would have been dead if not for a last-minute shift in the weather. Plenty of them, of course, already are.

Why was the National Guard not there with trucks, moving everyone who wanted to go out--before the storm? Why were there not schoolbuses and helicopters before the storm? And why, please tell me, were the 700 [white] guests and staff of a hotel moved to the front of the evacuation line at the end of the week, ahead of the thousands of [poor and black] people who had been there since Saturday? Why were so many of those who got out white, and almost all of those left behind--except for the stranded tourists--black?

Race relations in this country will never be the same. And whatever is on the news, I know at least part of what will happen. White people will look at the pictures on their TVs, of the gangs and the thugs and the rapes and the lawlessness. They'll say, see, that's what black people are like, really. And the black people will look around them and see that whatever social contract we imagine in this country, that our wealth and our democracy protects us, is a mirage. It might take some white people a little longer to figure that out, but the truth is the same for everybody.
We think our government will protect us. It won't. It won't protect us at all, in the end, whatever the color of your skin.

1 comment:

Jasmin said...

And then, of course, there's the National Guard of all 50 states jumping up and down with hands raised, going "Pick me! Pick me!" because that's why we joined the Guard instead of the active duty Army. Of course, a third or more of us are abroad, at best fixing other countries' problems (let's take a charitable and idealistic view, just for a moment) while leaving our own short handed. Some of us are even sitting playing our own little wargames in the desert in our home state, wishing we could take a couple of weeks and help out out overstretched Southern brothers-in-arms. (And sisters-in-arms, too, natch.)