Just when I think that progress has been made in this country regarding race and classism, something happens, and it becomes obvious that the only progress has been how deep-seeded racism is in the fields of this country.
I felt helpless looking at the news report. I was in the middle of figuring out what to do when I heard the news reporters calling the survivors of hurricane Katrina … refugees. I was outraged! Who were they talking about? Certainly not Louisiana’s citizens, i.e. American citizens.
It wasn’t enough for these folks to have lost their homes and loved ones. They have to be reminded that they are not quite like everyone else; they are refugees.
The media and government officials were actually calling the survivors of Hurricane Katrina refugees. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this word before in this context. Of course, nothing compares to this situation. I had to find a dictionary.
Refugee … according to the dictionary, someone who flees in times of war, political oppression, or religious persecution.
When I have heard this word used in the past, it has always been in relation to people crossing national boundaries but not ever to describe people who are citizens of the same country.
How does this apply to the situation in Louisiana?
We live in times of war and political oppression. Yet this was a natural disaster that has uncovered the ugly truth about the American political system. The truth is that the system does not care about those who are poor, elderly, or black.
Most times, black people are invisible. No one knew how bad off people were. No one knew people were still there in New Orleans. Yet when black folk become visible, they are portrayed as criminals, thugs and hoodlums.
On the Internet, there were two pictures?”one taken by AFP, an international media outlet, and the other taken by the Associated Press. The AFP picture describes two white people wading in water up to their chests. The caption read that after a long search they had found bread and soda at a local grocery store.
The second picture, from Associated Press, shows a black man, wading in water up to his chest. The caption says that he was wading in the water after looting a grocery store. These pictures and captions caused so much commotion that each news agency removed them from their respective websites.
I saved a copy. It’s the screen saver on my computer.
The message is clear: White folks find things and black folks steal things.
Well I guess that is business as usual. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised.
I have heard a story about how white folks found a whole bunch of other folks in a little known place called Africa. The story goes that they decided to take these poor homeless, naked people home to take care of them.
They weren’t refugees either. They were in chains.