KATRINA AND AMERICAN APARTHEID
amerikka: Two Different Countries
Hurricane Katrina and Amerikkkan Apartheid
By: Marlena Gangi
"Ya got to get mad. And you have to let them know that you have as much right in the house as they. And, if some of you can't sit down in that house in peace, it's better for you to put it on fire and burn it to the ground."
Go over the wall
Cause governments to fall
How can you refuse it?
Let fury have the hour
Anger can be power
If you know that you can use it
Al Jazeera is broadcasting live from New Orleans along with national and international news outlets. Clandestine freedom fighters world wide must be watching the unquestionable (deliberate?) incompetence of the u.s. federal government with eyes gleaming, suicide bombs at the ready. What better organizing tool can the u.s. possibly give to so called "terrorists," both here and elsewhere, in terms of "rapid" response to cataclysmic catastrophe as we watch the Bush regime homeland security agency fail its' first test?
As I write this, five evacuees have died of water born disease. The u.s. press reports on 22 bodies found last week that were tied together. The sheriff of the parish in which the bodies were found thought at first that rescuers had gathered them together with rope. It now appears that each was tied one by one, probably in an effort to be rescued as a group.
Other bodies have been found in attics and tied to parking signs at other points of devastation.
Five babies who died of dehydration in the New Orleans Superdome lie in the airport refrigerator. A sixth infant, delivered stillborn in the Superdome, lies with them. Last I heard, Superdome deaths total 10. It has been reported that two are murder victims, one a suicide.
Family members have been separated and are still searching out for one another. It is reported from the airport triage center that 8-10 are dying a day. The u.s. public health service is preparing for thousands more to be brought to St Gabriel prison, now commandeered as a morgue.
WHITEY GOT OUT
I have learned that New Orleans is two cities. Was two cities. One was comprised of a small number of affluent whites. The other was made up of mostly poor Blacks.
• New Orleans was 2/3 Black.
• Ranked as 9th poorest big city in the nation.
• Of the Lower 9th Ward, almost entirely Black, 6% were college graduates; national average is 22%.
• Average household income was $27, 499; national average is$56,644.
• The poorest neighborhoods were also the lowest lying neighborhoods (and most affected by flooding) and comprised overwhelmingly of Blacks.
• For years held the title of "murder capital" of the nation.
As poverty is one of the worst forms of violence, we should not be surprised at the murder capital info. Just as we should not have been surprised to hear that rescuers were met with firepower. Or that "looting" occurred.
A word about this "looting." Yes indeed, the u.s. print media DID run a photo of a Black trudging through chest deep water with a six pack of soda and a black plastic bag. The caption? "Looter."
Also run was a photo of a white wading through water with similar goods. The caption?
"A survivor finds supplies."
The message is clear; Blacks loot. whites courageously find supplies. Two cities. Only in amerikkka.
whitey had the way and the means to get out. The poor and Black did not. Without a car or money for gas or public transportation, where the fuck are you going to go? Much has been made of the fact that Katrina occurred at the end of the month and as many of those who could not get out may have been welfare recipients, welfare money had run out. While some have attacked this notion as a stereotype, it is of course true that welfare ain't no fuckin' picnic. As a child I was raised on welfare and, as a young single mother, I found myself having to ask for state assistance. Let me tell you, the state does not give you shit. By the third week of the month, the check, food stamps and "emergency rations" (the orange spackling paste called government cheese, powdered milk and powered eggs, moldy bread) are gone. No food. No money for a bus ticket. No way out.
At the same time, let me be clear; those left behind were also the elderly and infirm, and working poor, the two job families fighting to make ends meet and every bit as worthy as those on assistance for evacuation and rescue. So; why the delay to the help them?
The pigs in power knew that the levees would not hold. They knew that a hurricane with the force of Katrina was due. So, where was help when it was needed? If the u.s. can fly the military all over hell for u.s. "intervention," where was the u.s. intervention for Louisiana? Why was food and water not airdropped onto the rooftops where people were begging for help? Why were no watercraft deployed? Why were these people abandoned like dogs to die on bridges and in waterways?
I am more than ready to believe that a good part of this shit storm is about a roomful of powerful and infinitely demonic white men who sat in a room somewhere to decide just how far they were willing to go with this in order to fuck the people and benefit themselves. Trust me; it is not as if this kind of thing, in a myriad of different ways, has not occurred here in the u.s. before. The question now before us is, just how much shit ARE we willing to take?
WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO NOW?
There is so much more to say about what we have seen happen in the past 9 days. For now, I want to share something that happened to me this morning.
Walking near my neighborhood, I found myself in need of using a bathroom and stopped into one of those Starfuck(er) coffee places. As the bathroom was occupied with someone in line ahead of me, I waited for my turn near a table where two upscale soccer type moms sat sipping their four dollar cups of coffee, their napkins on their laps just so. They were going over the morning papers and bemoaning the Katrina tragedy and what one called "this country's failing leadership."
"Yeah, this truly calls for impeachment in my opinion," said the other.
This cracked me up. They noticed.
"What?" One asked. "You have a better idea?"
"Actually, yeah. Assassination."
"Assassination?" I don't think I have ever seen two white women go so pale. My dark skin and "Beat the Rich" t-shirt could not have helped.
"Assassinate who?" Folks were starting to look our way.
"Mmmm... this country's failing leadership?" I answered.
At that moment, the bathroom door swung open. I walked in and took my place in the stall. As my piss hit the porcelain, all I heard in my head was "I must think before I speak, I must think before I speak, I must... " That and the fact that I was going to have to pass by these two on the way out.
When I did pass them, they said nothing, just stared. I stared back. As I was exiting the door, a bemused older guy seated at the counter said to me, "So, I guess you aren't one of those flag wavers?"
"Nope. Flag burner."
Laugh? He peed.
EXECUTE THE GENERALS?
My point is this (apart from having fun by saying things to rile up white folk); do I think that anyone soon will hold a gun to the head of this country's failing leadership? Probably not. Do I think that extreme means must be used to shift the balance of power in this country? Oh, hell yes.
Impeachment is not an option. Impeachment will never happen. No amount of voting, protest rallies or marches or non-violent direct action will create change in this country. We do not live in a country in which public outcry alone will affect government policy. We do not live in a democracy and never have. We do not need to fear the coming of the fascists because the fascists are already here. They arrived with columbus along with the systems of capitalism, captive labor (wage slaves) and categories and definitions for race and class. These systems have remained firmly in place.
Do you think that if Katrina had hit the Hamptons, West Palm Beach or Malibu Colony that the federal government would have waited days to notice that something might be amiss? Stupid question. Not only would rescue and evacuation been swift, we would probably also have witnessed the immediate airdrop of food and water along with high powered automatic weapons to ward off potential looters.
If Katrina has shown us anything, it is the fact that the lives of Blacks and the impoverished are not worth much to the leaders of the most powerful nation in the world. Cuba, Venezuela, Canada, Iran and Russia had already offered assistance to the victims of the hurricane by the time that u.s. help arrived in the form of free gasoline, food and water, and emergency medical supplies and technicians. All offers were rejected by the federal government. The storm victims, of course, had no say in this matter of assistance. This should ENRAGE you. Where is your rage?
In an earlier post, I wrote that I was too enraged to offer anything intelligible about the actions/inactions of the federal government regarding Katrina. My rage has not subsided. What I can offer is this; we should be prepared to be bombarded with the propaganda of the myth of scarcity with particular regard to oil. As evacuees have been relocated to what for them may be foreign soil, we should be prepared to see the deepening divide between the haves and have-nots and all that this will manifest. And I can only hope to see on a large scale the shift of the mind set regarding democracy, equality and freedom, because when you get down to the bone, it is starkly evident that in this country, none of these three states exists. This is not about evolution. It is about revolution. If we were to learn that I or anyone else has been pushed to believe that nothing short of armed struggle will burn to the ground the infinitely evil power of the u.s. government, should we be surprised? Should anyone be surprised to realize that our freedom will never be given to us, that it is something that we have been forced to take, sadly, by any means necessary?
Just how much more shit have we been conditioned to accept? Where is our fury?
How fucked up does fucked up have to be before shit starts burning?
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the American flag."
Huey P. Long, governor of Louisiana, 1928-31
Marlena Gangi is a Portland, Oregon based photojournalist. She alone is responsible for the content of this article.
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