Refloating Racism

We read a disturbing article this week in my college English class at University of Houston.  The article, titled, “Don’t Refloat”, by Jack Shafer, was about the reasons that New Orleans, Louisiana should not be rebuilt.  As everyone may know, New Orleans was pretty much demolished five years ago by Hurricane Katrina.  While most have been sympathetic, Shafer felt that New Orleans is, “A poor place, with about 27 percent of the population of 484,000 living under the poverty line, and it’s a Black place, where 67 percent are African-American.”

Shafer actually presented these statistics as reasons to not rebuild New Orleans.  This line of thinking could only be senseless, racist, or both.  One could reasonably justify refraining from rebuilding an economically depressed city in order to boost the GNP.  However, in presenting the skin color of a people as reason to abandon reassembly, Mr. Shafer presents himself as a narrow-minded bigot.

Shafer went on to list the percentages of single mothers in poverty, adults with no high school diploma, and Black students in New Orleans public schools as further reasons to forget about reconstruction.  He did not for a moment in his text examine the social background behind these statistics, much of which trace to American slavery, the Jim Crow Era, and the recent standards by which New Orleans has been handled, considering that it’s so, “poor and Black.”

To further demonstrate the atrocities practiced on New Orleans residents, one may read an account directly from Shafer’s article which states, “Researchers enlisted the police in an experiment last year, having them fire 700 blank gun rounds in a New Orleans neighborhood one afternoon.”  Police fired seven hundred blank gun rounds in a neighborhood where children lived in the afternoon.  Could you imagine walking up to the curb to get your children off the school bus and hearing 700 gun rounds fire out of nowhere?  As you look around, you notice men in black uniforms on the rooftop with glints of silver flashing from their chest pockets.  They are holding the guns.  The police are seemingly shooting down at your children.

Shafer attempts to establish residents not calling the police to report the police shooting blank rounds into the neighborhood as reason not to rebuild New Orleans.  He implies that residents do not trust the police.  No sane person who watched the police shoot 700 rounds of gunfire, blanks or not, into their community in the daytime is going to trust the police.  Mr. Shafer does not make a valid case.

It is sad to know that racism like Mr. Shafer’s still exists in 2010, but I am not surprised.  Many policy making officials must also feel this way, since much of New Orleans has still not been touched five years post-Katrina.  In a news segment a few days ago, I saw that the lab charts from 2005 were still hanging on the wall in New Orleans Charity Hospital.  As humans, we are all interdependent.  It would befit Mr. Shafer and others to move past these prejudices and see the reason why these statistics are the way that they are, so that we as a society can mend these ills and move forward in union.  We can only hope this ambition will be realized sometime soon.


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