The Continuing Salience of Race in America

If nothing else, what these events have brought out to me is just how salient race and racism remains in American life. I think a lot of this has been masked since 9/11. Indeed, I think in some ways I had lulled myself into a state of complacency about the progress of race relations in this country. I am still largely optimistic in this regard, at least in the long term. But I think many of the kinds of issues that were so hotly debated in the 80s and 90s just came roaring back with a vengence.

While I should be careful to say that I don't think Bush and all the others so up-in-arms about looting are "racist" in a blatant, "era of Jim Crow," Dixiecrat way. But I think there is a powerful, subtle undercurrent of racism that is swirling around much of this whole situation, and in some right wing circles, its fully out in the open. Just go over to freerepublic and do a little reading.

I really don't know what the upshot of this politically is going to be. There is going to be significant consequences, and not just on this issue. However, I am willing to bet that any effort of the GOP to reach out to black voters has more or less been destroyed along with New Orleans as a result of this.

I definetly don't think there is a deliberate genocide going on. Definetly not. But I think a large number of African Americans are going to interpret events this way.

At the very least, people who don't think that race is not playing a significant role in what is going on are frankly out to lunch.

Tags: Culture (all tags)

Comments

25 Comments

I think.......
.... much of America sees black Americans as 'other' people. As Iraq and the plight of Iraqis has aptly demonstrated, the problems of 'others' are not our concern.
by crazymoloch 2005-09-01 06:37PM | 0 recs
Re: I think.......
Thats what I'm getting at. I think, I'm disappointed to say, that this is still far too prevalent an attitude in this country. That black people's lives aren't as valuable because they are still seen in a rather inchoate way as second class citizens by too many Americans.

Ben P

by Ben P 2005-09-01 06:55PM | 0 recs
Re: I think.......
Physical, social, and cultural segregation endure in this country. Trust between races is hard when we hardly talk to one another. We are more mosaic than melting pot. Someday we will realize that what unites humanity is so much greater than what divides us. You are right that these undercurrents lie dormant until something like this happens, then the ugly Us/Them dichotomy stirs and the sniping flares up. Our national motto used to be E Pluribus Unum. From Many, One. What a terrible day in 1956 when we abandoned that principle to wrap ourselves in a false and boastful cloak of hypocritcal "holiness" with the empty slogan , "In God We Trust". (Not to say that we are a more racist nation than we were in '56.) Our brothers and sisters are dying, and where are our leaders? Why did Bush interrupt his vacation to sign a bill mandating intervention for a brain dead white woman, and then react so slowly and with such insufficient zeal when thousands of poor and mostly African American citizens were and are dying slowly, feeling the pain of hunger and dehydration? Bush's craven depravity is well documented, but the reason he has been able to act this way up until now may be exactly what you say, a giant rift. A wedge between our people. THAT is the levee WE must breech.
by hazzcon 2005-09-01 07:33PM | 0 recs
Re: I think.......
um, breach.
by hazzcon 2005-09-01 07:37PM | 0 recs
Re: I think.......
I've been heartsick for exactly the same reason but wasn't able to define it until I read this page.  The same looting footage is on replay on the networks, shot days ago.  Bush's "zero tolerance for lawlessness"? I would like to see how he handles several days of devastation, overcrowding, no food, water, shelter, or medication.  Friends of mine still in NoLA yesterday reported the police were letting people into the stores and later they saw footage of those same stores being described on the networks as "looting."  Before this disaster, I wouldn't have thought it possible that Americans would be called "refugees," how about calling them victims?  Sure, these may be somewhat subtle, but we'd hear an entirely different tune if NOLA where a little less poor and a lot less black.  

I fear that Katrina will prove to have wrought more destruction than 9/11.  Yet I don't sense the national outrage.  To the contrary, there is apathy at the water coolers in America.  Look the other way, glad it isn't "us."  Why is it that those who rallied around  Terry Schaivo show very little compassion for the million newly homeless poor and mostly black New Orleans residents?  I am truly disappointed in white America so far and I hope the days ahead show I'm wrong.

by sadiem 2005-09-01 09:17PM | 0 recs
Re: I think.......
Even the use of the word "refugee" is inappropriate and a subtle, yet persistent, form of racism through sloppy labeling.  This from a letter a political friend of mine sent to every media outlet she could; not holding my breath for them to respond:

American Flood Victims are Not "Refugees"
"I have followed the coverage of the tragedy in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on several news stations.  The despair and devastation to New Orleans and its residents is incomprehensible.  As a citizen of the United States and a former resident of New Orleans, I am writing to multiple media outlets to ask that in your reporting of the tragedy occurring in New Orleans and other places affected, that you stop referring to these American citizens as refugees.  According to Webster Dictionary, a refugee is "one that flees; especially : a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution."  A broader definition of the word could technically include persons seeking refuge, meaning a place of safety.  But typically in this country the term refugee is a term of art particularly referring to foreign born individuals fleeing atrocities in their homeland who are seeking asylum or protection in the United States.  In that situation the United States would have an option to accept or reject that person. However, it is inappropriate to refer to these persons displaced by Katrina as refugees.  They need our help, Americans should rally to support these persons and the same wave of patriotism that was displayed in the aftermath of 911 should be displayed now.  That the victims are mostly black and poor makes the characterization of them as "other" is doubly inappropriate and offensive.  If we are truly an inclusive nation that embraces our black, poor citizens, we must stop using this language of exclusion.

by sadiem 2005-09-02 01:46PM | 0 recs
This is a total disgrace.
And I do think it does approach genocide by neglect.  These are the same people who ignored AIDS, who bombed Iraq and who supported racial apartheid in the US.

That NOLA is nearly 70% African American and that it's calls for protection went unheeded cannot be understood in a racial vacuum.  Additionally, race and poverty intersect in America, and NOLA is as much about class neglect as it is about race.  This is one of the most shameful chapters in American history.  There is absolutely no excuse for there to not be caravans of aid, 50,000 soldiers, police from every state, food and water.  The disaster calls for all of nation's resources.  And I have no doubt that those resources would be summoned if it were not poor Black Americans getting hit the hardest.

I am so upset by this.  I just can't believe it when it is so rampant like this.

by Tom Kertes 2005-09-01 07:19PM | 0 recs
Growing up black, poor and down South
I thought despite everything my country had something a kin to believing in what it claims to believe in. Now, I just am approaching a place where I don't care about this country anymore. That's what this week- reading commentaries over at D Kos where there are folks treating this like "politics"- is doing to me. I'm trying not to give up, but I am slowly starting to. I want to believe that people have more than just contempt for people of my race. I want to believe that. But, at this point the pragmatic side of myself is saying you have a lot of evidence to contrary. I can't explain to you how angry I am right now. I see these folks in NOLA, I see their faces, and I see myself. Where I grew up, and the breaks that had to happen in order for me to suceed. I think was it just simply only suppose to be for me? what about all these other people that look like me? And, that pisses me off even more. I can't say if others like me are feeling the same way- but I wouldn't be surprised.
by bruh21 2005-09-01 07:42PM | 0 recs
Please don't give up
So many of us want to make this country live up to what it is supposed to stand for but feel thwarted at every turn by conservatives. The status quo does not reflect the ideals of true democracy. Believe in brotherhood. LIVE it. Please don't give up.
by hazzcon 2005-09-01 08:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Growing up black, poor and down South
I can't say if others like me are feeling the same way- but I wouldn't be surprised.

More than you know.  Check out African-Americans for Democracy (we started as a group of Howard Dean supporters) and our blog The Underground Railroad.  We're developing action items to deal with this and many other problems that plague Africans in America.

by Oscar In Louisville 2005-09-01 08:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Growing up black, poor and down South
I subcribed to the group- thanks for pointing me to it. I've decided to get more involved not less. I can't expect things to be better without my being a part of it. I am not built that way.
by bruh21 2005-09-02 04:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Growing up black, poor and down South
everything is politics....if that isn't readily apparent then i don't what is.  People of this country need to be shocked into becoming active citizens again.  Our country has been taken over by spend happy, overfed, undereducated, apathetic drones.  Civilized discussion will not suffice.

I am with you.  I've been in tears for days now but give up?  We need some anger and then action to slap some sense into 50% of the electorate that doesn't vote and the other 10% who decided that Bush was a good choice.

by Chavez100 2005-09-01 10:01PM | 0 recs
IT IS POLITICS
It is political that all the national resources have gone to Iraq.

It is political that Tax Cuts have eroded the infrastructure

It is political that that this administration wants to take away the very Safty Nets that were put in places because of events like this that has happened in the past

It is political that this administration keeps flashig Operation Blessings phonenumber all over the place... Pat Robertsons charity... a man that just issued a fatwa.

It is political that this is a Republican adminstration who have based their doctrines on racism and hate ... that they left Blacks behind...only to be "shamed" into acting.

by Parker 2005-09-02 12:16AM | 0 recs
Amen
Fuck anyone who ducks this whole issue.

There is something very wrong when America is slathered with the message that black folks are just fucking looters who ought to be shot, while white folks are monuments to fucking ingenuity who find supplies after a disaster.

I grew up around poor whites, and I guarantee the only difference between how the black folks in New Orleans are dealing with this shit and how the people I grew up with would deal with it is that the rednecks would have MORE guns and be quicker to shoot each other.

Also, the looting would be more focused on beer.

So folks are looting -- big fucking deal!!!  

All that shit is going to be tossed anyhow.  Who gives a fuck if some black kids carts off a fucking plasma screen TV?

He sure as hell doesn't have anything else to do with his time as he waits to see whether a fucking helicopter or death is going to show up first.

Simple fact is: this wouldn;t have played out this way if 150,000 Americans servicemen weren't in Iraq being shot at by conservative fucking Islamic fundies and Ba'athist fascist who all just want us to go the fuck away so they get their civil war on!

by jcjcjc 2005-09-02 04:09AM | 0 recs
Re: IT IS POLITICS
did you delete your "No Clintons-Dean'08" diary? If so, how come?
by NeoLiberal 2005-09-02 10:05AM | 0 recs
Bush's Zero Tolerance
Bush came out and condemned looting much more strongly than any expression of sympathy or understanding of the situation -- which is pure Rove/Nixon Crime in the Streets coded message to the racist base of the GOP.

It also speaks to the dispicable heart of the Modern GOP -- property rights are more important than human life for George W Bush . . .

by ck 2005-09-01 07:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Bush's Zero Tolerance
This isn't just on the GOP. It's also on the Dems. Listen to how people are defending the also equally poor showing of Democrats. There is a pox in both houses.
by bruh21 2005-09-01 08:32PM | 0 recs
It is hard
for me to watch the suffering.  To Bush his vacation was more important than the people trap.  It makes me cry.
by HCLiberal 2005-09-01 08:34PM | 0 recs
And there is this
Whites "find" and black's "loot."

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v675/toxigal/yahoo1.jpg

I'm sure it's not conscious, but the net effect...

by Drummond 2005-09-01 09:09PM | 0 recs
It is racism!
It's almost genocide and it's definately a lack of caring.  President Bush and Congress convened a midnight session to save Terry Schiavo but their reaction to this crisis - nothing.  Harry Connick Jr. is on the Today show amazed by the conditions in the convention center and the Bush administration does nothing.  Racist don't always wear a hood, their motives always come out in times like this.
by mishiem 2005-09-02 03:40AM | 0 recs
Race and Class
Since Wednesday I've been struggling not to get so angry that I can't function. Yes it's about race and yes it's about class, anybody of color sees that, except Condi Rice and we plan on taking away her black card just a soon as we take care of our babies, elderly, sick and poor one family at a time.

Four years after FEMA reports that this will happen, the best this country could do was tell everybody to get out of town. If you had no money, no car, no credit then go to a shelter to pray it works. It didn't work. As children and old people die in the streets, the President shows more concern for material things than he does the people who are suffering. I knew he wasn't the brightest bulb on the tree but I'd thought he'd be advised to at least speak in platitues because the rest of the world was watching. I was wrong.

He will suffer no consequences from this because the people suffering and dying are poor and black. White people in this country will gloam onto the 'looters' and say THEY should have gotten out and THEY shouldn't steal. Without realizing that the difference between THEY and themselves is one paycheck.

by Mylie 2005-09-02 04:13AM | 0 recs
They also hate poor white people
I am not denying that they are both racist and homophobic. Both of those characteristics go to the very core of their being. What I would like to point out is that they don't understand they are racist, because they are operating on core beliefs that go to the heart of their family values faith system.
by Gary Boatwright 2005-09-02 05:02AM | 0 recs
No Deliberate Genocide?
If individuals just allow a large scale disaster to kill people and they do nothing, or less than they should, because it is mostly black people and they don't care about black people - perhaps that is a kind of genocide.  One could call it a passive-aggressive, de facto genocide.  
Maybe that's an exaggeration, but does anyone think that the response to this would be the same if the refugees were predominantly white?
by steve expat 2005-09-02 01:03PM | 0 recs
Re: No Deliberate Genocide?
If the people trapped were wealthy white beachgoers on a barrier island, then we would be sending every boat that could float to get them.

Furthermore, we would be air lifting them Perrier at regular intervals until the boats could get there.

by wayward 2005-09-02 04:48PM | 0 recs
At the intersection of race and class.
The crisis in New Orleans shows America's racial and class prejudice in clear view.

I don't believe Americans hate black people. There are a few neanderthals who evolution has passed by, but most people have gotten past the old style racism of the KKK and segregation.

However, Americans DO hate poor people. American attitudes toward poverty are to blame the victims. Also, persistant racial prejudice leads people to believe black=poor and that black people are primarily to blame for their own problems. Helping poor people is squandering your money because you  know how "those" people live. As you can see, this becomes a vicious cycle.

This intersection of race and class is why the Great Society failed. We can't give people "our" money because "they" will just waste it. The intersection of race and class is why the media (who are neither "liberal" nor "conservative", but instead are just whores for ratings) shows black "looters" and "shooters" in order to comfort the somewhat guilty conscience of middle America so that Joe White Suburbanite can rest back reassured that the people trapped in New Orleans deserved their fate and that the policies and politicians he supports are without blame.

To make a long story short, if you are poor and black, the powers that be in America don't care if you drown and are probably planning on building condos on your grave when the water recedes.

I have gone from horror and sadness to rage. China evacuated hundreds of thousands in advance of Typhoon Talim, (http://english1.people.com.cn/200509/02/eng20050902_206032.html) yet we left thousands to die while the fleet of New Orleans school busses sat idle and were flooded into ruin. People left second cars idle while filling their SUV's with stuff while others were left to drown.

This is truly a dark week in American history.

by wayward 2005-09-02 04:46PM | 0 recs

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