Thursday, September 15, 2005
Kanye West, a successful hip hop artist and producer, has become notorious for his recent comments on a live aid broadcast for Katrina. A somewhat nervous-looking Kanye strayed from the prepared script by noting, first of all, that federal aid seemed to be arriving "as slow as possible." Kanye also said, "I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family it says they are looting if you see a white family it says they are looking for food. . . . We already realize a lot of the people that could help are at war now fighting another way and they've given them permission to go down and shoot us."
There was five second delay for the broadcast but the censor had been instructed to bleep out any expletives and not any uncomfortable political criticism. That is why the world was able to hear Kanye clearly say, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."
There was an uproar in the media over Kanye's comments. Many white people were incensed, claiming that race had nothing to do with the slow response. One conservative radio host even dubbed Kanye a "black-face klansman." Nevermind the ostracism that a black-faced klansman would fall victim to at all of the klan rallies, the question is was race a factor in the slow response?
I think it had a role but I don't believe that it was the deciding factor. George W. Bush is notorious for his long vacations and for his, um, how do you say, complete and utter disregard for news in any form? Bush is the man who proudly stated that he does not read newspapers or when he does read them he "glance(s) at the headlines just to kind of get a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who . . . probably read the stories themselves." Newsweek recently reported in "Katrina: How Bush Blew it"http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9287434/, that his aides were somewhat hesitant to break the news to the often "cold and snappish" president that he would have to cut his five-week vacation short by two days.
So, no, Bush did not deliberately ignore the storm warnings in order to leave thousands of blacks dead, homeless, and desperate. Bush, it seems, was just oblivious to what was happening. Oh, he knew there was a bad storm alright, he just "misunderestimated" its size and intensity. Bush, aware that the levees were broken, cut his vacation short but nevertheless flew to San Diego (New Orleans is the other way, eh Mr. President?) where he accepted a guitar from country singer Mark Wills. What kind of callous cold-hearted leader could stand around smiling and strumming a guitar while his country is undergoing a horrible natural disaster?
Bush, of course, is not the only one to blame here. There were municipal and state-wide failures. The federal failures, however, are so glaringly obvious and embarrassing, that even Bill O'Reilly should be able to see them (he can't, but he should). Bush withheld funding for the levees in the first place (although the storm probably would have busted through anyhow) and he responded with pathetic nonchalance. Not only that, but the recently sacked FEMA chief, Michael Brown, was horribly unqualified and hired only because of Bush's cronyism.
Still, can we say that race played a factor?
We cannot know the hearts of those in government but we can read their actions. From their actions it seems that poor blacks and whites in New Orleans don't matter a whole lot. One Republican senator was even overheard saying that the "New Orleans housing problem has been solved." American response has, for the most part, been highly supportive of the victims of Hurrican Katrina. There are those, however, who blame the victims. There are those who claiming that the blacks have been made soft by welfare and are unable to bail themselves out because they always expect the government to help them. There are those who say that blacks are animals because they loot and rape as soon as police disappear. There are those who claim that black poverty would be solved if they would just learn to stop having teen pregnancies. So, while it is questionable if race played a factor in the slow response it is definite that racism is still a factor in America today.
Does George Bush not care about black people? God only knows. I think he does care about black people, and I think he does care for the poor white and black residents of New Orleans. Just not enough. Kanye should have said "George Bush is oblivious and doesn't care enough about black people to read a newspaper or watch the news."