Wednesday, December 7

Katrina Survivors Cry Racism, Ethnic Cleansing and Sabotage

This week, hearings on the catastrophy that was Katrina began on Capital Hill - to rather explosive results.

Image: Leah HodgesWASHINGTON - Black survivors of Hurricane Katrina said Tuesday that racism contributed to the slow disaster response, at times likening themselves in emotional congressional testimony to victims of genocide and the Holocaust.

The comparison is inappropriate, according to Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla. “Not a single person was marched into a gas chamber and killed,” Miller told the survivors.

They died from abject neglect,” retorted community activist Leah Hodges. “We left body bags behind... The people of New Orleans were stranded in a flood and were allowed to die.”

Angry evacuees described being trapped in temporary shelters where one New Orleans resident said she was “one sunrise from being consumed by maggots and flies.” Another woman said military troops focused machine gun laser targets on her granddaughter’s forehead. Others said their families were called racial epithets by police.

“No one is going to tell me it wasn’t a race issue,” said New Orleans evacuee Patricia Thompson, 53, who is now living in College Station, Texas. “Yes, it was an issue of race. Because of one thing: when the city had pretty much been evacuated, the people that were left there mostly was black.”

According to a recent Gallup poll, NBC News’ Kerry Sanders reported on Tuesday, six out of every 10 black New Orleans residents said if most of Katrina’s victims were white, relief would have arrived sooner.

Discussions about race began almost immediately after Katrina hit on Aug. 29. On Sept. 9, according to NBC News, President George W. Bush told the public, “The storm didn’t discriminate and neither will we in the recovery effort.”

Mama D - "Ba-boooom"!
One of the more telling and distressing exchanges occured between Rep Chris Shays (R) and Mama D a local activist who has turned her home into a shelter in the area when it come to discussion of whether the levee's had been bombed, and mentioned that this has occured before, in 1927 by one Louisiana town in order to protect itself from flooding.

After being reminded that they were "under oath", Mama D responded that "she does not stand to get rich by lying before Congress. Unlike the oil execs. [who were not sworn in during their hearing just a few weeks ago]".

As noted on Dailykos: was a gross display of cultural insensitivity. At one point, Shays said to Mama D, [paraphrase] "Let's not start speaking in tongues..."

A couple of faces in the background registered surprise and shock at that comment.

Now it could, and has been argued that the sound of levee collapsing on it's own would have sounded almost identical to an explosion:

Quick little summary of the failure of the levees:

  • The underlying soil sloughed away, therefore the structural levee wall became freestanding
  • This wall was not designed to exist free standing, therefore, the weight of the wall collapsed itself
  • When concrete and steel structures collapse, especially a massive 200 to 300 feet section, there is a lot of potential energy released
  • Energy releases such as this always have a sonic component

I am not discounting anything else, but this is a common misconception. Most people have never experienced a major structural failure, like the levee or the Twin Towers, and the noise associated with the failure can be misconstrued as an explosion, because the sounds are comparable in amplitude and wavelength. Feel free to ignore my points, but as a civil engineer who has witnessed a dam failure one sixth or so the size of the levee breach in New Orleans and multiple explosive demolitions, the sound is freakishly similar.

So it's not entirely fair to discount the sworn testimony of eye witnesses as Shay's did -- and even though it may be tempting to dismiss the comments about the levee being bombed - the collapse may have sounded exactly like a bomb (there are also some indications that the levee had been leaking for weeks) - or that relocation process being similar to "Concentration Camps" -- the simple facts seem to belee such skeptism.

It's quite common these days for people to be highly skeptical of racial claims -- "they're just playing the race card"... but in a situation that has an extremely disproportional impact on individuals of one particular race as a result of - at least - gross and abject neglect- the racial element is hard to ignore.

This country still maintain a great racial divide, one that status and economics have yet to completely fill. But what's sad is that even in an situation as nakedly biased as this one -- we still continue to get bogged down in the semantics of intent (was it deliberate or accidental?) rather than looking toward solutions on how to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.

Video of these hearings are available on the C-Span Website


1 comment:

batcave911 said...

Army Corps of Engineers DID blow some levees on purpose

this is even on their website.

They were breached to help "unwater" areas of New Orleans.

on the link is a map that indicates this,
taken from the Army Corps of Engineers website.

maybe this is all above board, but that means we need to trust our government :(
so since we do KNOW that they blew some of the levees,

(we also KNOW they did it in 1927 to save the upper class communities)

then, there must have been someone driving around with explosives.
the question is, did they blow the levee in the 9th ward ?
or, did it just fail ?

I have been living in New Orleans for 44 years,
and there IS racism still going on,
probably more than any other place ive been to.

There is NO indication at what time ANY of these deliberate breaches took place.
There is NO indication as to HOW, or even the particulars of WHY.
There is NO information if these deliberate breaches helped in any way.
It seems curious to me, that as much information is provided on this site
about the unwatering process, one would think those questions would be answered here.

An unwatering team, was placed in Memphis, 1 day before Hurricane Katrina.

I hope someone looks into this

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina photos