On Race, Haiti, and New Orleans
February 8, 2010 § Leave a comment
Watching the Super Bowl yesterday, we were inundated with stories of redemption and New Orleans (something I hope to return to in a post later this week, stay tuned), but something in my brain clicked when images of the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina were shown, including the scene at the Superdome, the home of the New Orleans Saints, and I thought of coverage I have seen of the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake last month.
In both instances, there were wide-spread reports of looting and violence in the aftermath of these natural disasters. In both cases, media coverage was overwhelming negative of these events, with a strong hint of moral condemnation (one headline in The Times speaks of “retribution” against rioters). This coverage, it seems to me, is intimately tied up with questions of race and power.
In the aftermath of Katrina and the earthquake, large cities were destroyed (New Orleans and Port-au-Prince), meaning the survivors had no homes, no food, no shelter, things that humans require. Basic requirements of life. In both cases, aid was slow to arrive on the ground (David Letterman on the Super Bowl: “And the New Orleans Saints’ fans, I’m telling you, they have waited a long, long time for their team to get into the Super Bowl. Not as long as they waited for FEMA, but still, it’s been a very long, long time”). This seems to me the very defintion of a desperate time calling for desperate measures. Hence, the turn to violence to get the basics of life. It is neither surprising, nor, really, as far as I see it, wrong (at least to a certain degree).
But coverage in the media is universally negative. In New Orleans, the media focused on African-Americans who were engaged in looting. Haitians are also black. It would seem to me that nothing beyond racism fuels the apocalyptic coverage provided by the mainstream media in the US, UK, and Canada.
Cross-posted at Current Intelligence.