Perceptions of Race bias in Katrina response

I am one of the 30% whites who saw blatant racism in the Govt. response. How can 67% NOT see it ?!?!? Are you kidding me ? 8 months earlier white Florida residents got $2,000 per head from Bush for "damages" due to a breezy class 2 hurricane. It was genocide and they know it. -- law

Perceptions Are Reality
by Delaware Dem
Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 18:31:06 CDT

Race has been on my mind recently. Last week, Armando and I and others had a little dust up about race in New York City Democratic politics. Further, we have all seen the federal response to Katrina (or lack thereof) and race played a huge role in that natural and man-made disaster.

So let's review where we stand on race in America today, in 2005.

* Delaware Dem's diary :: ::

The Racial Perception on Katrina

According to the NBC/Journal poll conducted from Sept. 9-12, only 37 percent agree with the statement that the Bush administration would have acted with greater urgency had the affected areas been mostly white suburban communities. But there is a huge discrepancy by race here: Seventy percent of African Americans agree with the statement, while 67 percent of whites disagree.

Whether the Administration really would've responded quicker to white folks trapped in their attics and on their roofs for three days is irrelevant, (though you can count me in the 30% of whiteys who think the 82nd Airborne would have been deployed to evacuate Tallahassee and all the rich white Republican folks there if the situations were reversed) it is the perception that matters here. And that perception, like a bad first kiss on a bad first date, can never been reconciled. Seven out of ten black folks surveyed think Bush partied down with a country music singer and ate birthday cake while their brothers and sisters drowned. Oh wait, he did. Yes, sometimes perception can be based on reality.

Yep, it's the perception I'm talking about here. When we and everyone else around the world turned on the news, we saw a huge, desperate crowd of black faces, sprinkled ever so lightly with a white face here and there like bubbles in a Guiness Stout. My wingnut friend you are all familiar with told me that it is not fair to talk about race here since New Orleans is 70% black. Oh really, well then, out the 10,000 people at the Superdome I should have seen 3,000 white faces in that crowd. But I didn't.

Race and the Media

We have all seen the infamous AP photos of a certain set of people wading waist deep through New Orleans flood waters retreiving soda and food. One person was white and thus a "finder." One person was black and thus a "looter." Wolf Blitzer commented on CNN "that those people at the convention center are just so poor and just so black." Yes he did say that.

And who can forget during the BK days (no, not Burger King, Before Katrina) all the attention that was afforded a stupid southern blond white high school girl who got drunk and went off to a beach with a Dutch boy, while we had to email CNN and MSNBC to send one reporter to Philadelphia to cover a pregnant Philadelphia black girl who was similarly missing. And to be sure, FOX never did cover the latter story.

Race and the Mindset of the Republican Matriarch.

Never has has the mindset of the Republican upper crust ever been so wonderfully revealed than during Barbara (Not The Young, Hot One; the Old Bitch One) Bush's photo opportunity at the Astrodome to show that she too cared.

It's "sort of scary" that all those poor black folks want to stay in Houston?

And sleeping on a cot in an old delapated sports arena that has not been used since 1995 is "working very well for them"?

Race and Class

Yes, class has something to do with Katrina, but race and class are inextricably linked in America, as even President Bush now admits. It sucks to be poor, regardless of race, but being black in this country adds even more hurdles for someone who is also poor. As Chris Rock opined, "It's haaaard to be black in America. Ain't no white man in this room wants to trade places with me... and I'm rich!"

Race and the Law

We all know that the ultimate punishment is disproportionally handed down in this country. Black men are more often sentenced to harsher penalties than whites. As a black or hispanic man, you are more likely to be pulled over by cops than I am.

Race and Politics

And yes, I must admit, after much thought, Armando is right. Black and hispanic politicians not only have a hurdle to get into office, but their tenures and their careers are scruntized much more than a white's would be. Charges of incompetence and corruption are thrown around when discussing a black politician much more than if we were discussing a white politician. Sure, Mayor Street is a corrupt and incompetent mayor. But I believe Anthony Williams of D.C. is not, yet I have heard the same charges as to both. Meanwhile, Frank Rizzo is still beloved in Philadelphia. Indeed, there is a statute of him across John F. Kennedy Boulevard from City Hall.

Yeah Yeah Yeah, your point?

Katrina was a cold splash of water across my, and hopefully America's, face. What got me thinking recently about race was not just my fight with Armando, but instead the thought about perception being reality. We all know George Bush is a heartless cold scared wimp of a man whose leadership skills rivals that of Herbert Hoover and whose intelligence rivals that of Forrest Gump (except Forrest Gump had a good heart). However, Bush is perceived (until Katrina) as a courageous leader sent by God for our times.

Rather than argue about whether the racism exists and at what level, understand that the perception is the reality. When 70% of black folks agree with Kanye West when he said "George Bush doesn't care about black people" and 67% of white people can't figure out why he said it, then we have us a serious problem.

At the same time, we cannot force racial tolerance and undestanding. I believe that most people, black and white, are not consciously racist. But we've been conditioned by living in a racist culture, and we often don't realize the subtle racism we exhibit. I believe that this kind of subconscious racism will die off with the older generations. For example, once that bitch Barbara Bush dies, we won't have a person who thinks it is scary that Louisiana darkies are moving to Houston.

But then again, racism is learned. If you are an overt racist, chances are your child will be too.

So how do we as a society bridge this racial gap in perception?

Daily Kos: Perceptions Are Reality


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