New Orleans– The Portrayal of African American Citizens during Hurricane Katrina. (10191108)
Throughout the countries brief, yet eventful History there has been many recorded incidents of black oppression in the United States of America. A nation built on the notion that all men are created equal. However, this is not a view shared by a large number of the African American population, past or present. A prime example of this is the aftermath and controversial treatment given to many in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest and most destructive hurricanes to hit the Gulf Coast.
New Orleans was possibly the worst effected city due to what is considered as the “worst civil engineering disaster in U.S history” 1 Flood protectors failed to prevent the mass devastation and destruction of many neighborhoods surrounding the city. Neighborhoods that were home to predominantly two sets of families; those who had the economic means and ways of getting out of the evacuated areas were able to flee and survive the disaster. However the families who didn’t have the financial stability to leave their own homes were left with risking their lives in the hands of the government who were later blamed for not doing as much as they could have keep those without hope from danger. This is according to many reports of negligence towards the people of New Orleans. Accusations such as the denial of allowing hundreds of school busses to help evacuate citizens to safe ground, choosing to cover themselves from a “lack of insurance liability and bus drivers” 2 Showing a completely moral disregard for human survival.
Alongside the government’s accountability for the aftermath of Katrina, the media also played a huge part in the representations of the black community during the recovery, labeling survivors of different ethnicities in completely different ways, For example the popular news website (used by thousands of Americans daily) ‘Yahoo!.com’ provided a very blatant use of racial prejudice from the disaster. The website published two photos of residents trying to salvage anything they could to survive from what was left of the storm, the only difference between each photo being the residents skin colour; “The website featured a photo of two white residents, wading through the water with food. The caption read: "Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana.” 3 Notice how the use of language towards this photograph seems very innocent, using words such as “finding” as if they’re entitled to whatever they find because being white in America comes with a sense of ownership and socio-economic advantage. Compare this to the photograph of the black resident (who appears to be alone and a lot younger than the white couple show in the first picture) and it paints a completely different picture; "A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005” 3 The phrase that obviously jumps out at you is ‘looting’; this instantly gives you the idea that the young black boy shown has unlawfully taken these items maliciously from another human being. I am not specifically stating that this is not the case however, it could be a possibility but to me this theme features very regularly in the media’s reporting style, which contributes to the prejudices that African Americans face daily by being portrayed as ‘other’ and, reinforcing the American government and media’s social ideologies, labeling the black residents as social pariahs.
A view also shared by black artist and producer Kanye West, who famously accused the President (at the time) George W. Bush of negligence towards not only the African Americans affected by the storm but the African American population as a whole. The exact words he used were:
“I hate the way they portray us in the...
Bibliography: 1 - Sandy Rosenthal. (2012). Corps of Engineers Commander Has Confessed. Available: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sandy-rosenthal/corps-of-engineers-comman_b_1833571.html. Last accessed 22nd November 2012.
2 - The Storm. (2005). Documentary, Directed by Marcela Gaviria and Martin Smith. Boston: PBS.
3 - Van Jones (2005). Black People "Loot" Food … White People "Find" Food. [online]. Available from: <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/van-jones/black-people-loot-food-wh_b_6614.html>. [Accessed 25th November 2012].
4 - Amy Goodman (2005). Democracy Now! [online]. Available from: <http://www.democracynow.org/2005/9/5/kanye_west_bush_doesnt_care_about>. [Accessed 2nd December 2012].
5 – Morris Reid, YouTube video uploaded by Gleeok2 (2007). Black and White Debate Hurricane Katrina and Racism. [online]. Available from: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hesKZ78hA4>. [Accessed 25th November 2012].
6 - Tommy Christopher (2012). ‘Mediaite’ [online]. Available from: <http://www.mediaite.com/tv/chris-christie-praises-obamas-hurricane-sandy-response-scoffs-idea-of-mitt-romney-nj-visit/>. [Accessed 2nd December 2012].
7 - Joseph B. Treaster (2005). Superdome: Haven Quickly Becomes an Ordeal [online]. Available from: <http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/01/national/nationalspecial/01dome.html?pagewanted=all>. [Accessed 2nd December 2012].
1 - Michael Eric Dyson (2007)
2 - Trouble the Water. (2008).Documentary. Directed by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. United States: Zeitgeist Films.
3 - Big Easy to Big Empty: The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans. (2007). Television Documentary. Directed by Greg Palast. United States: Disinformation Company and Big Noise Tactical Media.
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