Tuesday, September 13, 2005


"The storm did not discriminate," you insisted yesterday, Bush--angrily repudiating accusations of discrimination in New Orleans--"and nor will the recovery effort." Fine words, Bush. But what a narrow, patrician understanding of discrimination and how it works: the helicopter crews, you said, did not seek out the white faces and ignore the black. Rescue workers did not knock only on the doors of white residents and pass by the black. Food and shelter were not offered only on the basis of the victims' skin color.

True enough. But then please explain how the vast majority of those targeted by Katrina's havoc were the dispossessed, the poor, the black. Did the storm not "discriminate" against them--enabled, no doubt, by a neglectful society that had for many years chosen to pass them by and leave them exposed? Were those who lacked the means, the education, even the basic transportation to take care of themselves in this emergency--were they not victims, too, of discrimination? Those fortunate enough to live on higher ground, to benefit from more sophisticated commuications, to have cars and the means to fill their tanks--these were the ones who were called upon to bear less of the storm's brunt. Not that I want in any way to minimize their pain and loss; but proportionately, the poor and the black were undeniably called upon to suffer more.

So I can't agree with you, Bush, that the storm did not discriminate. It did. It simply discriminated along the lines that we, as a society, had prepared for it--conditions that your policies, these past five years, have done nothing to ameliorate. In fact, the opposite is true: they have led to a greater distance between rich and poor, greater barriers between white and black and, yes, Bush, greater discrimination. Sorry, I can't let you wriggle of this hook either, despite the fine rhetoric your speechwriters prepare for our consumption: "The storm did not discriminate, and nor will the recovery effort." Nice-sounding words, Bush. But no cigar.

No comments: