Slate on Bush, race, and Katrina

Slate, an online magazine, has a fascinating article called “An Imperfect Storm: How race shaped Bush’s response to Katrina,” which asserts that, while the government’s response was not overtly racist, the plight of black people in LA, MS, and AL was not taken seriously by Bush because those states are reliably Republican and black people in general don’t vote for him anyway.

A quote:

Because they don’t see blacks as a current or potential constituency, Bush and his fellow Republicans do not respond out of the instinct of self-interest when dealing with their concerns. Helping low-income blacks is a matter of charity to them, not necessity. The condescension in their attitude intensifies when it comes to New Orleans, which is 67 percent black and largely irrelevant to GOP political ambitions. Cities with large African-American population that happen to be in important swing states may command some of Karl Rove’s respect as election time approaches. But Louisiana is small (9 electoral votes) and not much of a swinger these days. In 2004, Bush carried it by a 57-42 margin. If Bush and Rove didn’t experience the spontaneous political reflex to help New Orleans, it may be because they don’t think of New Orleans as a place that helps them.

It’s an interesting idea that seems to have a lot of merit. Florida got a lot of attention last year after its hurricanes. Some say that’s because the governor of Florida is the president’s brother. It’s possible. It’s also possible, and very plausible, that it’s because Florida has 25 electoral votes and is essentially a toss-up. Comments?

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2 Responses to “Slate on Bush, race, and Katrina”

  • From

    From a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll: “… Six in 10 blacks said the federal government was slow in rescuing those stranded in New Orleans after Katrina because many of the people in the Louisiana city were black. But only about one in eight white respondents shared that view. …

    “… According to [another] poll broken down by race, blacks were more likely to blame Bush for problems in New Orleans, with 37 percent holding him most to blame for the fact that many residents were trapped inside the city after it flooded. …

    “… On the question of whether Bush cares about black people, 67 percent of whites said they believe the president does care, but only 21 percent of blacks agreed.”


    Do you think the next head of FEMA will be black? I might be going out on a limb here, but … bet on it.

    Personally, it’s hard to imagine an Oval Office conversation in which the President and his advisers agree to blow off New Orleans based on Census figures. It’s hard to imagine that the Bush Administration would abandon the biggest city in a strong RED state that supported him with almost 57% of its votes last year. It’s equally hard to imagine a group of people who agree more with the politics of semi-articulate hip-hop singer Kanye West than Rev. T.D. Jakes.

    There’s something racist about believing that everything is about race. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., dreamed of a time where his children would be judged “not by the color of the skin, but the content of their character.” A worthy, noble and achievable goal. In fact, we’re a lot closer now than in 1965. Certainly more than in 1865, which was better than in 1765.

    But some blacks, apparently in large numbers, still want it to be about the color of their skin. Was Michael Jackson’s or O.J.’s prosecution racially motivated? No (in the white community) … yes (among many — maybe most — blacks.)

    One example: At the moment, an unfortunate urban legend is gaining traction among blacks that an AP photo of black looters in New Orleans caption them as “looters” while an Agence France-Presse photo (from the French wire service) of white looters captions them as “finders.” TWO pictures where TWO photojournalists attempted to say ONLY what they saw and knew to be a fact … and the situation is perverted for political gains, then given momentum by Kanye West. Do yourself a favor by going to myth-debunking to see the truth about those photos and stop listening to urban legends. Suffice it to say, the explanation will reassure you that The Media is not always grinding a personal axe for either the Right or the Left.

    I can’t speak for nor argue about what’s in most hearts, black or white. I can speak for my heart. I can look around and judge for myself what seems logical and honest. And I have seen the outpouring of help and sympathy for Katrina’s refugees, evacuees and survivors here in Southeast Texas, not exactly the historic model for good race relations. But in the shelters and churches that have taken them in, the faces of the care-givers are overwhelmingly white in a community that’s half-black.

    America has a long way to go before we’re truly and totally color-blind. Sadly, there are still some things that ARE racially motivated. But in the end, people of color must realize that to achieve color-blindness, they, too, must stop seeing all things as racially motivated.

    Maybe I’m wrong. Apparently being wrong about race is ” a white thing.” Let’s strike a blow for true equality: Maybe blacks can be wrong about race, too.

  • Patricia says:

    I do not know if what has been suggested here is true, in terms of the politcal calculations that may or may not have influenced this administration’s actions regarding past funding for disaster mitigation, in terms of the levees, and it’s tardy and seemingly disconnected response to this calamitous event… But if were true, that a person’s survival depended on the value of their vote, it would mark a new ‘high’ in the levels of cynicism and self-interest that have plagued our politics for too long…

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