One of the saddest stories to come out of the Hurricane Katrina disaster is not the death and destruction of a major American city, but the death and destruction of American unity.
The country banded together in a way not seen since Pearl Harbor when Islamic jihadists destroyed the World Trade Center towers and hit the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. But as much as we came together then, we seem intent on tearing ourselves apart over real and imagined failures of government, politics and society, as they pertain to the ravaging of New Orleans.
Nowhere is this more evident than in a USA TODAY-CNN-Gallup poll taken earlier this week. According to the survey, six in 10 blacks actually believe the Bush administration intentionally delayed its relief response because most residents of the city are black. Meanwhile, fully 90 percent of Caucasians reject this claim for the nonsense it is – but the fact that the races are so far apart in their beliefs is only likely to widen the chasm.
That America is still dealing with racial issues to this extent, 140-plus years after the Civil War, is as regrettable as it is disappointing. Worse is that the issue was even made an issue in the first place, though these ridiculous charges came from familiar voices: Low-brow political- and pop-culture types.
I find it excruciatingly difficult to believe a charge so blatantly absurd has progressed to the point where journalists and reporters who are supposed to be professional, serious people are asking Bush with straight faces, “Mr. President, do you hate black people? Do you? Huh? Huh?”
“My attitude is this: The storm didn’t discriminate and neither will the recovery effort,” Bush told my carping, partisan colleagues yet again earlier this week. “When those Coast Guard choppers … were pulling people off roofs, they didn’t check the color of a person’s skin. They wanted to save lives.”
Based on a number of news reports, isn’t it more likely helicopter crews were checking not skin tone, but caliber of weapons, since some of the “victims” who needed “rescuing” were taking pot shots at them? There is also this: Not all “victims” wanted to be rescued because they were too busy looting anything and everything they could carry, leading some astute observers to question, “They don’t even have homes anymore – why are they stealing TV sets and microwaves?”
But to people like Rae Clifton, 52, a black Web designer who lives in Atlanta and was part of the survey, the realities of the chaos which ensued following the storm didn’t seem to register. To her and most other blacks surveyed, everything bad that happened was a result of some master racist plot. When polled about relief efforts in the Big Easy, Clifton offered this response: “If [in New Orleans] it had been a 17-year-old white cheerleader who was caught in the water, somebody would have tried to get there faster. But because it was poor people … caught in a situation, it was, ‘OK … we’ll get there after a while.’”
Then again, how many 17-year-old white cheerleaders were shooting at helicopters? And though I may have missed it, I don’t recall seeing any short-skirted teens with pom-poms hauling stolen items through waist-deep floodwaters, either.
The point is, to believe such claptrap is so devoid of common sense and rationality it boggles the mind. Then again, we don’t live in an age of coherent thought – a fact in evidence in the realization that one of America’s cottage industries in the post-modern era has been the creation and support of left-wing race hustlers.
Instinctively and on cue, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin hinted the federal response was intentionally muted. Meanwhile, rapper Kanye West openly accused President Bush of disliking “black people” during a Katrina relief event. Long-time race hustler the “Reverend” Jesse Jackson blamed the slow federal response on racism. Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, complained of “disparate treatment” of Katrina victims, and alleged whites, not blacks, were able to flee in boats, while black mayors never heard from federal relief officials.
Each person had their own motivations for making such foolhardy and unsubstantiated claims, but the message was the same: Racism. Unfortunately, we have heard these charges for so long – charges that are then repeated ad nauseam by the media – it’s no wonder too many of us believe them, no matter how irrational and asinine they are.
The more everything happening in America was not supposed to be about race, the more everything happening in America is only about race. Despite the deluge of laws, initiatives, programs and policies adopted over the years to de-emphasize skin color and emphasize individual traits and qualities, the hustlers and their allies in the press have done everything they can to drive a wedge between the forces of unity. Rather than promote our sameness – namely, that we are all Americans striving for pretty much the same things in life – they promote hatred, suspicion and division, and usually for self-serving reasons.
Katrina has exposed this regrettable phenomenon in a big, bad way. If we, as a nation, don’t shun the race pimps and their malcontents – and it’s long past time we did – America has no future.