Long rumbling, this storm barely registers on U.S. radar
No question that Hurricane Katrina (and her sister Rita) wounded us, but bigger storms have escaped our notice. For one thing, the whitening that continues to strike Louisiana.
That’s why you have to agree with the Black Commentator‘s Margaret Kimberley that Bill Bennett is doing us a favor, though he took quite a gamble letting his id out.
Kimberley recently wrote in her Freedom Rider column:
Bennett is not alone in dreaming about dead black babies. Whether the thought is spoken aloud or not, the American fantasy is a world without any black people in it.
That’s coming true in the new New Orleans, and the way the mainstream press is covering this new diaspora of black Americans isn’t helping.
Yesterday’s big story in the New York Times about black refugees from New Orleans “scattered in a storm’s wake and caught in a clash of cultures” missed the point of the racial cleansing that’s going on. Reporter Isabel Wilkerson softened the focus to a blur, except for the black dialect, her employment of which gwine make me throw up.
Here’s a passage from her story about the plight of Louisiana black people being taken away to Arkansas and Oklahoma:
This is the way that supposedly sophisticated big-city newspapers cover the sticks. Well, I’m an Okie, born and bred, and I’m here to tell you that, for one thing, upstate New York is just as redneck and backwards as Oklahoma.
As for Noo York City, where I currently work, it’s a wonderful place, but the people in general — I’m talking about the overwhelmingly white class of elites that works on Wall Street and in media companies and newsrooms — are at least as provincial as similar ruling classes in such provinces as Kansas, Arizona, and Colorado. My little ol’ hometown, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, has more Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and has spawned better filmmakers (Terry Malick) than you can find in all of Long Island (even when the Hamptons are full of celebrities). Not that B’ville’s a mecca, you understand. Anyway, Kimberley continued:
The land was becoming sparser and drier. They had passed the last traffic light miles ago. There were no other cars on the road and no more stop signs or signs of life other than cows resting under the locust trees. They had seen no other black people since leaving Arkansas. Now they saw no people at all. Some of the evacuees began to grow fearful.
“Where is they taking us?” Nitayu Johnson, a hotel maid with a young daughter, remembered thinking. “They trying to slave us. They going to make us pick cotton. We gon’ die.”
This Times reporter seemed to be channeling Octavus Roy Cohen, noted author of “humorous Negro fiction.”
Wilkerson made sure to capture the dialect — only that of blacks, not of the rural whites, who speak much the same way — but she ignored the racial component of this story. Oh, on the micro level, she appeared to tried to get to it in this passage about refugee Louis Green:
A white Arkansan sitting on a nearby bench overheard his ranting. “I think Fort Smith is one of the best places you could live in this country,” he said.
“Yeah?” Mr. Green said. “What factories they got here?”
“Whirlpool,” the man said. “Planters Peanuts.”
Mr. Green, still steaming, seemed not to hear him. “I knew this was a rotten state,” he said.
The local man got up. “We’ve treated those people terrific over here,” he said, and walked away.
Well, Faubus is dead, but his spirit lives on, and not just in the South. Let’s see what dat ol’ Margaret Kimberley says about Bill Bennett:
Like Rush Limbaugh, drug addict, and Bill Cosby, serial groper, Bennett lectures and condemns while reserving the right to be a freak in his own life. In 2003 Bennett’s gambling addiction became widely publicized. It was reported that he lost $8 million in Las Vegas and Atlantic City in a ten year period. We are fortunate that what happened to Bennett in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas.
We could use a CSI team for the current tasks of dissecting Wampumgate and the Iraq debacle, but Kimberley’s doing all right. She continues:
If Bennett really feels that aborting all black fetuses is immoral and reprehensible, the words would never have entered his mind. The comments were William Bennett’s own Freudian slip that gave us a frightening peek at the secret desires of many white Americans.
And not just that white guy in Fort Smith, Arkansas, who has “treated those people terrific.” Just take Bennett’s ignorant statement about black crime. Kimberley says:
The black children that Bennett wants to do away with are committing much less crime than they did just a decade ago. According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics, the homicide rates for black juveniles, both as victims and offenders, fell by 71 percent from 1993 to 2003, the greatest decline among all racial groups.
Another contributor to Black Commentator, Anthony Asadullah Samad, notes that the right-wing ideologues are definitely feeling it. This is how they roll. As Samad says:
Be it President Bush’s insistence that staying in a $200 billion War in Iraq is still right thing to do (even though all can see it’s not and that democracy efforts in a theocracy driven Iraq is failing), or his momma’s (Barbara Bush‘s) statement that underprivileged Blacks had it better at the Houston Astrodome than in their own (pre-hurricane) homes, or Rush Limbaugh’s Freudian slip of the tongue in his critique of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (calling him Ray “Nagger” — replace one letter and you get the point), or Bill O’Reilly’s rant (that poverty circumstance is the poor’s fault because they don’t want to compete in a capitalist society) at congressman Charlie Rangel‘s suggestion that the federal government take a renewed effort to eliminate poverty, or former FEMA director Michael Brown‘s assertion that the federal government’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina was because “Louisiana (governor and mayor) was dysfunctional,” the far right calling the poor and disenfranchised responsible for their own fates, is like the “pot calling the kettle black” — or hot — or rusty — or similarly situated. Rich, middle class, poor, or ideologically twisted, we’re in the same boat.
Samad catches his breath and then puts it together:
Republican “bootstrap” mentality has long been bankrupt of shoe laces. What are the poor supposed to pull themselves up with? By stripping government of its social welfare role that builds the infra-structure for emergency preparedness, the social safety net for children, seniors and the poor, the capacity for the middle class to rebuild their lives, runaway ideologues attack any solution that suggests we have the ability to do for ourselves — in America’s cities — what we seem to want to graciously do abroad.
These runaway ideologues are so blind to America’s social, political and economic vulnerability that they cannot see that their own fates are tied to those less fortunate.
The rich cannot run away from the conditions of the poor, though they may try.
This country is rich enough to fix all of its economic and social ills. But the ideologues that run this nation won’t let it. Isn’t this how the last “Great Society,” Rome collapsed — under the weight of its own decadence? Well, this one is fading fast because ideologues think what happens to the least of us won’t affect the rest of us. They need to think again, take responsibility — then action that’ll benefit the whole, not the few.
And now we have a chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, who’s a prime defender of corporate rights over human rights. Another such lawyer, Harriet Miers, is in the wings, probably with Barney.
Later this year, we’ll get another window opening onto our racial past, present, and future: We’ll see what happens when Congress takes up the extension of the Voting Rights Act.
Before then, check out how smiley-faced people like John Roberts stand on it. I’ll tell you: like his boot on your neck.