Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Bush Says Don’t Call Him a Racist

…because the federal response to Hurricane Katrina was equally as slow for whites as it was for blacks. At least, I think that’s what he is saying:
“I heard, you know, a couple of people say ... ‘Bush didn't respond because of race – because he's a racist,’ or alleged that,” Bush said. “That is absolutely wrong. And I — I reject that.”

He then added that the real reason he didn’t respond quickly was because he is the worst president ever.

Okay, he didn’t say that last part. That was me.

But racism and the charge of racism are in play in the aftermath of Katrina. How can it not be in the South?

Looking at the latest percentages of identified Katrina-related deaths, however, there is not a great disparity between black and white deaths. Of the 488 victims identified and whose information has been released publicly, 49% are black and 47% are white.

Is this evidence that the federal response was not racist? The right of the blogosphere (using older stats) would say yes.

Remember, though, there are still 587 bodies yet to be examined, or the family must be notified before the information is released, or a positive identification has not been made, or the identity can not be determined. Those percentages can change as more victims are identified or as more bodies are recovered.

Whether the percentages change or not, deaths after the storm is not a valid rubric to use in order to grade how racist (or not) the federal government is or was right after the storm hit. Overall, what the government did before the storm to protect New Orleanians, during the storm to keep New Orleanians safe, immediately after the storm to rescue New Orleanians in need, and what the government plans to do for the displaced New Orleanians now and to help those trying to rebuild must be examined to determine racism involved.

We might find at the end of the day that it is not black New Orleanians that the federal government has neglected, but New Orleanians of every color.

And *age*. The numbers show (pdf) that 64% of identified post-Katrina deaths (including the 21 non-Katrina related deaths) were over the age of 60. That is the most damning number of all, because they had given to the system their entire lives, only to see crappy levees built, a crappy evacuation plan that didn’t include their specific needs, and a crappy rescue that couldn’t save some of those that managed to survive.

Yes, racism probably contributed to the tragedy of Katrina. But, a lot of other –isms were no doubt involved, too.

Jeez, I just bummed myself out.


Schroeder said...

Excellent point -- of course, I hated the way Bush said it, but it's another straw man issue to distract people from the real issue of his freaking incompetence all the way across the board.

Does not play well with others said...

In my opinion, the slow response to Katrina was not a racial issue...it was an economic issue. The Bush administration does not understand the logistical needs of poor people, nor do they value the lives of poor people as equal to anyone else.

Polimom said...

Myself, I've decided that the poor response is a screaming example of the extreme partisanship we have now in the US.

Stupid as it sounds (and I really think it does sound very stupid...) - it's possible that since NOLA is Democrat, they just aren't "part of the family" for the Republicans.