by Ben P, Fri Sep 02, 2005 at 10:28:00 PM EDT
For those of you who don't yet know, these were the final words of an unsripted rant by probably the most popular and artistically talented rapper in the world right at a primetime benefit show on NBC last night.
Here is West's an extended quote:I hate the way they portray us in the media. "If you see a black family it says they are looting if you see a white family it says they are looking for food. . . (unkwown) . . . the black people, the less well off, as slow as possible. I mean -- this is -- red cross is doing everything they can. We already realize a lot of the people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way. And they've given them permission to go down and shoot us. . . . George Bush doesn't care about black people . . .
At which point, NBC struggled frantically to cut West off. I sense this is not going to play at all well in white America, but I also sense that this is a sentiment that is being felt acutely in the black community and I think his remarks will largely seen here in a positive light. And, this, in part, is my point.
As I said in my post, from yesterday, if nothing else, this crisis is going to relaunch race into the center of American public life in a way I don't think it has been for a while. Maybe since the LA riots of '92. I think it also going to put into sharper focus questions of economic inequality in a way it has not been probably since the early 90s as well. I don't know how I feel about all of this, because I don't think the ensuing dialogue is going to pretty. You already see the ramping up of not-so-thinly veiled racism in many of the more popular right wing websites in this country. In this sense, I think both sides - black anger and white racism - are going to continue to feed off each other in an escalating spiral. Here are some examples taken from free republic from yesterday:1. "My understanding is we are supposed to house several thousand at Reunion Arena in Dallas as well.
. . . we need the zeroist of zero tolerance when it comes to behavior in these refugee camps. I'm not in any mood to put up with bussed-in criminals. We've got enough grown in our own backyard."
2. "Oh hell, we've got the illegals to take care of already - what's a few bunch of thousands more legal citizens in our backyard that we'll need to care for?
It already takes about 8-16 hours to be seen at the local emergency rooms because of the primary care being provided (for free) to the illegal aliens...
Heck, maybe they'll stay & drive the illegals out and take their jobs away - and wouldn't that be an interesting development?"
- "Here's the thing. The Astrodome is not the place for housing this many people for even 2 weeks much less a minimum of 6 months. We are talking about 20 to 30 thousand people with NO privacy and in an area that is already one of the most high crime areas of Houston. These folks, many single and many, as have been shown, have no inhibitions to take what they want are going to sit quietly in that building without taking advantage of the areas many delights i.e Prostitution, drugs and the whole gamut of entertainment'. This is a disaster in the making."
- "The Astrodome has a lot of parking around it. It's a fair hike and a tall fence before you get to much else of civilization except for the football stadium. If the National Guard is there to treat these folks like it was Gitmo, it might not be that big a problem. But if they keep the doors unlocked and let these people just wander everywhere unchecked, it will be a major problem. And just wait until Jesse and Al and the ACLU show up demanding this and that. Wait until the lawsuits start.
5. "My prediction is that Jesse Jackson declares himself pastor of the Astrodome. Recognizing the hardship of his flock, he will only require tithing of 5% of their FEMA stipend."
Hat tip to Pam Spaulding. Now I suppose this isn't "racist" in the sense they don't actually say "nigger," but the subtext is, well, rather strong.
Needless to say, I think this kind of thing is going to continue for a while time. What the Katrina disaster has done is opened the cellar door on some of those issues that lying seething beneath the sometimes placid calm of the American body politic - most specifically, race and class. Just as I knew when I work up the morning of September 11 in a Gainesville, Florida motel to hear what had just unfolded was going to transform American politics and society for good, I felt the same way by Tuesday night this week. Indeed, I think we are entering a new post- post- 9/11 phase in American political life. This doesn't mean that everything post 9/11, pre Katrina will no longer be. No. What I mean is that the kind of debates and issues that largely framed and animated our national discourse are now going to change. Whether or not this is a good thing, I have no idea.