Maybe the Government’s Response to Katrina Wasn’t Race or Class-Related

In the days and weeks following the disaster in New Orleans, many in the media suggested that the federal government’s “slow” response to Hurricane Katrina was caused by the race and economic condition of those impacted. President Bush had to regularly answer the questions of reporters concerning this, while media members opined at will.

Most famous of such assertions was reported by NewsBusters when rapper Kanye West said during a televised Katrina relief fundraiser that, "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Earlier that day, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer said, “Almost all of them that we see, are so poor and they are so black.” And, as also reported by NewsBusters, CBS News’s Nancy Giles said: “[Bush] has put himself at risk by visiting the troops in Iraq, but didn't venture anywhere near the Superdome or the convention center, where thousands of victims, mostly black and poor, needed to see that he gave a damn."

As the days ensued, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Aaron Brown, as well as NBC’s Brian Williams and ABC’s Ted Koppel discussed how race was a factor in the government’s response as reported by NewsBusters’ Brent Baker. For example, in one segment of CNN’s “The Situation Room,” Blitzer asked Congressional Black Caucus member Elijah Cummings (D-MD): “There are some critics who are saying, and I don't know if you're among those, but people have said to me, had this happened in a predominantly white community, the federal government would have responded much more quickly. Do you believe that?"

With that as pretext, another hurricane hit this week, and this time it was wealthy areas in Florida like Key West, Boca Raton, and Fort Myers that were devastated. As a result, there are millions without power, gas lines that stretch for miles, people running out of supplies like food and water, and a lot of fingers being pointed at local, state, and federal officials. In fact, the Associated Press ran an article on this subject today, as did ABC News, NBC News, and CBS News tonight.

Yet, what one sees from the video images is not just poor, black people that are waiting in these lines, or without power, or stranded in their highrise condominiums. They’re just Americans -- rich, poor, black, white -- that have been in the path of a natural disaster that clearly doesn’t care about things like race and economic class. And, regardless of what the media avowed in early September, the ability of the federal government to respond to such disasters appears similarly unrelated.

Brent Baker of NewsBusters reported that Brian Williams on “The Daily Show” shortly after Katrina hit suggested that the response would have been different “had this been Nantucket, had this been Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles…” Or, as we are now seeing in Miami, maybe not.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.