What’s happening in New Orleans?

One of my colleagues and I were talking today about the tragedy unfolding in New Orleans (NO) and the mass rescue that is occurring. She said quietly and sheepishly, “Why do you think all the people we’re seeing on TV looting, wading through water and being rescued are African Americans?

All over the ‘net have been blog posts about NO police officers looting, buses bypassing blacks clearly in need of help, lack of basic sanitation and clean water, and a level of desperation unheard of in this country.  No question if you have the means you can get out, get help and get sympathy regardless of race, but there is something fundamental occurring in NO that makes any reasonable observer question.

The Interdictor is a blogger in NO that has disturbing things to report. Worth a read and to give some thought about what’s occurring down there. Of course, I’m sitting here in my clean house in 70 degree weather and will be climbing in to clean sheets tonight so I’m not going to be an armchair critic or supporter…but *will* observe what others are reporting from the area. Anyone unfortunate enough to be poor, without transportation or the naivete to try to ride out the storm in NO needs our prayers, our help (financial or otherwise) and less second-guessing of the obvious anarchy ensuing.

I can’t imagine what it must be like. It’s also tough to fathom how NO is going to be able to recover from this disaster *and* plan for the next inevitable hurricane.

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  1. frightlever on September 10, 2005 at 1:25 pm

    Personally I think the real tragedy happening in NO is that people are being forced to face up to the reality that sometimes it doesn’t all just work out. Americans have the biggest hearts in the world but when something like this strikes at them there is going to be dismay that a few days of co-ordination won’t sort it out.

    That’s not really why I wanted to post though and I’m not looking to spark a flame-war here but did your friend really say “African Americans”? Or did she say black?

    African-American is an odd phrase, designed to mollify as much as describe. Recently, for obvious reasons, the UK has seen a bit of an influx of South Africans trying to escape the levels of crime there (I’ve spoken to maybe a dozen Sarf Effricans about this and this is usually the reason.)

    Before that there was a bit of an influx of Rhodesians/Zimbabweans for much the same, though more imperative, reasons.

    I suppose my point is – as a pretty much dripping wet liberal who loves everybody equally regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation or colour – what should we be doing to highlight and differentiate our own ethnic minorities?

    There’s a pub about 100 yards from where I work that has a large number of African emigres who drink there. They are mostly white but not entirely. I asked them if they felt African – most said they did but it wasn’t the most important thing about them. Most of them carry British or Dutch passports anyway.

    So I suppose my real point is, should I start referring to these people as African British. Most are white as snow but have families with a history that goes back 150 years in Africa. Am I actually discriminating against them by calling them African-British? If a white family has lived in Africa for almost 200 years are they more African than an African American who is fifth generation American?
    Are you going to insist on calling Chinese, Indian or Korean immigrants Chinese American, Indian American or Korean American?

  2. Steve on September 11, 2005 at 9:32 am

    She really did say, “African Americans.” I’m sure you’ve heard the term “political correctness (PC)” to describe being appropriately sensitive to the needs of certain groups. Another example is to use “Native Americans” to describe Indians.

    As the whole PC movement accelerated in the US in the past decade or so, I found myself agitated to the point of wanting to be viewed as “German/Norwegian American” (my ancestry). It was getting pretty carried away. It seems to have died down now, but there isn’t a cultural or societal norm to refer to or address certain ethnicities which makes it difficult for people trying to be inclusive and accepting.

    I think the essence of your point is the British families with a history that has roots in Africa. One theory suggests that it is quite possible we all do (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1058484.stm). So at the end of the day we need to focus on our similiarites and not our differences.

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About Steve Borsch

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.