As a black writer, I do not want to waste precious space ranting, raving and writhing in extreme pain at the daily distorted verbal assault on African-American civil rights leaders by misdirected and self-serving neo-conservative blacks on radio and TV throughout this city and country. Since this is the beginning of Black History Month, and since this is my last column for awhile for Austin Weekly News, I would like to set the record straight for our young students in schools, especially the students in Austin and the entire West Side of Chicago.
First, history is hard to erase, especially black history. The infrastructure of American racism is so well fortified that a force as great as Katrina is needed to penetrate its armor. The problems in black communities on the West and South sides of Chicago and urban centers nationwide is compounded by these “space age” color-line black folks because they are helping the racist status-quo maintain institutional racism.
Going forward as a race of people in this new age depends on us. Will we find new ways of relating to each other in times of crisis and need? You decide.
In the meantime, what have we learned from the events of 2005?”especially Katrina?”and what will we do with that knowledge?
As I stated in my September column on Katrina, we have received another “wake-up call” to critical analysis. Among the many lessons to be learned should be awareness and preparedness for self-reliance as descendants of our enslaved African ancestors.
It is now extremely clear that four months later, Katrina’s winds blew away the political and business-as-usual camouflage to reveal what African-Americans and all Americans really face. We face the loss of our rights to a post-Sept. 11 infrastructure of greed, fraud, waste and cronyism. The ethical crossroads is neither Democratic nor Republican, neither blue state nor red state, but the quintessential choice between human and free or slave and shackled. One black history lesson that some students saw in devastated New Orleans was the presence of backwater forces on American soil?”people with M-16s and AR-15s, guarding land for the rich developers and still blocking the return of New Orleans citizens upon threat of death is chilling to say the least. The best way to describe the entire Gulf Coast scene is “New Iraq.”
Instead of staying hurt, I channeled my anger into the education of young blacks, pointing out the cavalier attitude white men of power have in the selection of their mediocre, unqualified and less-than-intelligent friends, roommates and club buddies for high office positions where human lives are at stake. As my cousin Betty said, “Many black homeowners are going to sue FEMA.”
But it’s not just blacks. For many poor and middle class white families, the message is loud and clear: The insurance companies do not intend to rebuild your homes either. In fact, for many corporate insurance companies, premiums collected for years only go one way?”into their pockets, not toward any repayment efforts. For many people who have called themselves conservative and called for less government and privatization of services, the message has come home that lean and mean government is not available for you when you need it.
While racism has played a part in who was left in Katrina’s aftermath, racism had no part in who was in Katrina’s path. FEMA is racist and Chicago’s own Kanye West was on target about Bush. The young intellectual entertainer said that “Bush don’t care about black people,” and history proves him right. I will amend his comments, adding: “and neither do his mother and father.” Research proves that George W. Bush is descended from a line of racists and bigots. His ancestors have held blacks in disdain for much longer than any “Shelter Tour” and photo op can erase.
Barbara Bush was born Barbara Pierce, descended from Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United States (1853-1857), who supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act that repealed the famous Missouri Compromise. The compromise had stipulated that all the Louisiana Purchase Territory north of the southern boundary of Missouri would be free and the territory below the line would be slave. After the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, Barbara Bush’s distant cousin set the stage for the Supreme Court ruling by Chief Justice Rodger B. Taney that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional in the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision. The decision summary stated that blacks have no rights that whites have to respect.
In the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, I hope that students use Katrina in written projects to show that catastrophic events from the storm may finally allow Gull Coast blacks and whites, who share a common history, space and place, to begin to bridge their racial differences and make demands based on their common citizenship and shared risks in this country.
Students of all races should know that maafa is a Kiswahili term meaning “disaster” or “terrible occurrence.” Just as Jews refer to the “Holocaust,” just as African-American scholars refer to the “Middle-Passage” and decades of slavery, Jim Crow and oppression, our younger generation may come to refer to the Katrina Maafa.
Frank Lipscomb will be taking an extended hiatus from his column while he attends to family matters.