Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Member Reaction to the Disaster

This blog is primarily for information regarding US WILPF activities - ways to get involved, news of our work, and encouragement to join our organization. I believe it is important for WILPF members to raise our voices regarding the man-made disaster in the Gulf Region. Therefore, I am posting this entry from Sha'an Mouliert, coordinator of the Building the Beloved Community Issue Committee of WILPF.

As I watch CBS Sunday Morning, I'm on an emotional rollercoaster. For years, I've been ashamed to be a US citizen. Seeing how in a matter of hours the tsunami victims were attended to...in third world nations, i.e. supplies, contact information, pictures of the missing. Yet, Katrina's survivors are wondering around looking for food, shelter and loved ones five/six days later. The fact that the US is considering accepting aid from Russia, Cuba and Indonesia while they are spending billions of dollars in Iraq is an obscenity. We are blatantly showing the world our priorities...this coming from mainstream media. Is this the compassion George Bush is talking about? I find it revealing that he was willing to go to Iraq, a war zone, and yet felt unsafe to show up in New Orleans. Watching him hug two women of color was more that I could stand...an obvious photo op and evoking memories of him in a flack suit on a ship's deck stating the war is over. To me, he's giving the "terrorist" justification, exposing the US government for what it is...a protector of capitalism and the rich on the backs of disenfranchised people.

And now that Rehnquist has died, one can only speculate what's next for this nation.

As the Buddhist say, "May you live in interesting times". This is certainly an interesting time.


  • Check out this article written by Ewuare Osayande, who has given several dismantaling racism trainings for another organization that I work with (SEAC).
    ~kate zaidan

    No Ark to Save Them: Reflections on the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
    Copyright 2005 by Ewuare Osayande

    I, like millions of others, spent the past week watching helplessly
    as thousands upon thousands of people lost their lives and
    livelihoods in the wake of the hurricane called Katrina. As images of
    the victims flashed on the screen, I sat in horror watching the
    entire city of New Orleans reduced to rubble and its people to
    refugees. In a matter of hours an internationally celebrated city
    became a Third World nation. The U.S. had been unmasked. No more
    fa├žade of Americana: shopping malls, clean concrete sidewalks, name
    brand neighborhoods. The mask of materialism had been ripped away by
    Katrina's tidal waves. All that was left was something akin to a
    nightmare. Something that looks all too real to too many all over the
    planet. This is not something to gloat about. For it reveals
    something very disturbing about the United States. Something that
    many Black activists from Frederick Douglass on down have noted and
    named: America is a fraud.

    What is a tragedy on top of the tragedy is the response to it or,
    better stated, the lack of a response. Natural calamities are bound
    to happen. They are to be expected in fact. Certainly, this one was
    anticipated. But what is most distressing about this recent tragedy
    is the way this government and segments of the population have failed
    to respond in kind. That failure is rooted in a racism and classism
    that is as American as the Atlanta Braves and all that that team's
    name implies. By no means is the racism and classism a creation of
    the media as many have tried to imply. ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN are just
    reflecting the reality. The United States is as divided as ever. This
    assertion is echoed in the haunting cries of the hording Black masses
    desperately crying: "HELP US!" Yet no real help would reach them for
    days. And rather than hold the responsible parties accountable, the
    media decided to criminalize the victims.

    There is an email that is making the rounds in the inboxes of African
    Americans across this nation. The subject heading says it all: "Black
    Looters, White Finders." It exposes the corporate media's reportage
    of the actions of the victims. One picture is a white couple wading
    through the flood carrying bread and soda. They "found" food and
    thus, are seen as innocent, simply taking care of themselves under
    desperate circumstances. The other image which is the predominant
    image being telecast is that of a Black young man also wading through
    the water with a bag of food. The caption under his picture calls him
    a "looter." The implication being that he is a criminal, someone that
    ought to be arrested and locked up. He is not seen as worthy of
    saving himself. Any act on his part and the part of any other Black
    person doing similarly is viewed as criminal. That is a crime.

    It is asinine that people would be more concerned about protecting
    property than protecting people in the wake of this tragedy.
    Condemning people for pilfering food that would otherwise spoil or
    rot says more about the people casting aspersions than it does the
    people struggling to survive. It speaks to the inhumanity of those
    that have historically refused to acknowledge the humanity of Black

    But the racism doesn't rest there.

    There is also the racism that is not seen on the camera. I am
    referring to the racism of those that were able to leave, able to
    escape the storm. There is the racism of those whites that by dint of
    their white privilege could afford to leave while the African
    Americans that also lived there were cuffed to the catastrophe that
    was coming. These were the very Black people the whites had confined
    to a state of dependency. These were the very Blacks that swept their
    floors, emptied their trash, wiped their windows, cooked their food,
    cared for their children, taxied them to and fro, and fixed their
    vehicles. Kept their livelihoods alive. It was on the backs of those
    that were left behind that the whites rode out to safety. Yet that
    story will never get told on Nightline.

    New Orleans is a majority Black city; has to be to have a Black
    mayor. In fact 67% of the city's residents are African American. The
    overwhelming majority of them fall below the poverty line. Blacks in
    Alabama and Mississippi where the storm also hit fare no better. What
    choice did they have to stay or leave? Leave and go where? Yet, we
    have had to watch the majority Black victims of the storm derided by
    journalists and white reporters for not evacuating, not "heeding the
    warning." No! They didn't choose to remain; they were left behind.
    They don't own SUVs or Subaru Outbacks. They couldn't rent a U-Haul
    or even an Avis car because they don't carry any credit cards because
    too many of them hardly make ten grand a year. So they had no choice
    but to wade it out. Cast out the lifeboat, these poor dark-skinned
    peoples were rejected long before the high water hit their homeland.
    There would be no ark for them. No refuge. No sanctuary from the
    rains or the racism. Landlocked. They expected to die in their
    hometown of N'orlins. They just hoped it would be a death that was a
    bit more dignified than this.

    One of the prime functions of the American media is to perpetuate the
    myth that the U.S. is democratic, just and upwardly mobile nation.
    And that we care for one another equally. All these myths are exposed
    as frauds in the wake of this tragedy. And as a consequence, the
    networks don't know how to address themselves to that fact, so they
    have opted to go with what has always worked for them: pander to the
    inherent racism of this society. They have chosen to stoke the flames
    of disdain for poor Blacks that harbors in the heart of this America.

    The media is not alone in this either. There is the disingenuous
    governor of Louisiana who called on her state to pray the day before
    the storm only to turn and sic the National Guard on the Black
    victims of the storm. Warning them that these soldiers had just
    returned from combat and would "shoot to kill." This outrageous
    disregard for the lives of the citizens of her state is not checked
    at the Louisiana border but goes all the way to the White House. The
    response of the Bush administration has been disgraceful. The
    response has been no response. He might as well just stayed on the
    ranch and twiddled his thumbs. The Federal Emergency Management
    Agency, FEMA, the agency that is supposed to be first on the scene in
    situations such as this, has given more excuses than aid.

    When the storm hit Bush was on vacation. Once again. Just like he was
    on 9/11. But Texas is just a state away from Louisiana. Yet the
    president decided to fly over the calamity rather than touch down and
    get a personal account of the suffering. A healthy human body can
    survive approximately three weeks without food, but only about three
    days without water. Yet it would take Bush four days to even make an
    appearance. (And still no clean water has yet been sent in the
    numbers that are needed.) It would take national and international
    pressure to get the leader of the world's police to protect his own.
    But that is just it. Bush doesn't consider us Black folk his own.
    Even when he arrived, he wasn't seen conferring with the majority of
    victims who are Black. No. He went straightway to the white
    districts. Got a photo opp kissing a white girl who was crying about
    losing her home. Kanye was correct; Bush doesn't care about Black
    people. But that is not news. The issue is, knowing that, what are we
    going to do about it? And further, knowing that Bush doesn't consider
    us "his own," what about those who do?

    What of the Black bourgeoisie? Where are they in all this? Just the
    other night I sat appalled as I listened to National Public Radio's
    (NPR) "negro hour" called "News and Notes" hosted by former BET
    anchorman Ed Gordon. He and a roundtable of well-to-do Blacks traded
    barbs about how uncivilized those Blacks were behaving in New
    Orleans. What are they to do? How would our fine well-spoken Black
    cohorts want their undereducated counterparts to act in such a
    hellish condition? Would they have them walk by a grocery store while
    they and their loved ones die of lack of food and clean water? Would
    that be the civilized thing to do? The willingness of Black
    journalists to parrot their white counterparts is what is appalling.
    Black folks pilfering food so as to survive, on the other hand, is
    quite understandable and I would dare say encouraged.

    Atlanta, Black Mecca sits just two states away from New Orleans,
    right next to Alabama and Mississippi, states that were also hit.
    Some of the nation's wealthiest Black people reside and do business
    there. Where are they? And let's not talk about the churches. Those
    mega churches could easily take in the thousands that are currently
    being rejected at the Astrodome and Superdome. Where are they? Eddie
    Long and Creflo Dollar no doubt are aware of the tragedy. Surely they
    will make reference to the tragedy in their sermons come Sunday.
    Somehow I imagine they will blame the poor and make it seem as if
    this is God's doing to correct the sinful ways of The Big Easy. But
    many of the suffering are elderly Black women who spent their Sunday
    mornings preparing for church listening to these Black televangelists
    and their white predecessors preach on TV, sending them money in
    hopes of God's blessings. They have now been met with the deafening
    and damning silence of the Black church. These mega churches and
    their MegaFests propagate a doctrine that ties faith to material
    success. Essentially, if you believe hard enough and tithe right, God
    will bless you with excessive amounts of mammon. This theology that
    damns the poor and praises the rich has more basis in the Bush
    administration's domestic plan than in the Bible.

    Even now the corporate structure is jockeying for position. Staking
    their claim on what to them is a grand real estate opportunity. One
    person's tragedy is another's treasure. Even G. W. himself was quoted
    talking about how they're going to rebuild New Orleans. No mention of
    rebuilding the lives of the Black majority of New Orleans that have
    lost their entire material existence in the storm. Rather than
    address them, he spoke fondly of the day when he will sit on fellow
    millionaire, fellow Republican and Mississippi Senator Trent Lott's
    new front porch once his 154 year old oceanfront home is rebuilt.
    Even in the face of such tremendous loss of life, Bush can still take
    comfort in the certainty of capitalism.

    It is that trust in capitalism, that belief that by throwing a few
    coins at the problem, that all will be solved. But it will take more
    than relief drives and donations to address the problems that are
    present in this disaster. These acts, though necessary given the
    enormity of the loss, are only bandages on a wound that is diseased.
    The true test as to whether these relief efforts will be a success is
    the quality of life that these people will have in the months and
    years to come. Sure, The Red Cross and the Salvation Army will
    bolster their revenue and supplies as a result of this tragedy. But
    the real question that needs to be raised again and again is: Will
    all the millions being raised really reach the people in dire need in
    a country where many believe that the poor are incapable of taking
    care of themselves?

    Dr. King in his anti-war speech, "Beyond Vietnam: Time to Break
    Silence," said that "True compassion is more than flinging a coin to
    a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars
    needs restructuring." Disaster relief is not enough when the problem
    goes deeper than the depth of the flood waters. What life awaits the
    impoverished Black victims of Katrina? Did we hear any of them talk
    about how they planned to rebuild? No. They have not the means. We
    need to come to see that the edifice that produces poverty in this
    country needs restructuring and work toward that even as we provide
    aid to meet the right-now-needs of the suffering. Otherwise, this is
    just prep for what will become a perpetual practice.

    The hording masses are the Poor People's Campaign that King sought to
    organize before his assassination to expose the consequences of
    America's willful neglect of its poorest and most desperate. They are
    now refugees in their home. Political refugees in a land that
    rejected them at birth. Rendered this status by conditions outside
    their control. Now wading in polluted water. Sleeping with rotting
    corpses. Inhaling the fumes of feces and urine in order to survive
    under the unrelenting humidity of 90 degree heat. Scared to death.
    Frustrated to the point of insanity. This has been and remains the
    reality of the wretched of this country left to die in this makeshift
    hell called America.

    Ewuare Osayande (www.osayande.org) is a poet, political activist and
    author of several books including the forthcoming Blood Luxury
    (Africa World Press). He is an organizer with P.O.W.E.R. (People
    Organized Working to Eradicate Racism) based in Philadelphia, PA.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:46 AM  

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