I just figured out why I can’t go to sleep.
With Hurricane Gustav bearing down on the coast of Louisiana, I have been thinking a lot about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. We actually had students at Hunter College in the fall semester of 2005 who were escaping the horror of New Orleans and needed a school to attend for one or two semesters. I often wonder what happened to them.
And sometimes I still flash on the news footage of bodies floating through the streets of New Orleans, human detritus of a social system that can decorate a New York skyline with dramatic skyscrapers but can’t fix a levee.
But I will always be haunted by some of the images and captions in the Katrina coverage that revealed some of our most insidious attitudes about race and class.
Do you remember how some people were described by major news organizations as “looters” and others as having “found food.” Do you remember exactly who were called “looters” and who “found food?”
Sometimes our blindness is astounding: We are thrilled to celebrate major victories against racism, sexism, homophobia and other hates. And then, full of self-congratulation for all the progress we have made, we demonize people struggling to survive and turn others into tenacious heroes.