With the media's latest coverage on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, another major issue has emerged: race in America. In a recent benefit concert telecast by some major TV networks, Kanye West provocatively criticized the media's coverage of the hurricane's victims, who are mostly African-American.
"I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, "They're looting." You see a white family, it says, "They're looking for food." And, you know, it's been five days [waiting for federal help] because most of the people are black. ... With the way America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. I mean, the Red Cross is doing everything they can. We already realize a lot of people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way -- and they've given them permission to go down and shoot us! ... George Bush doesn't care about black people!"
Hearing West say those words got me thinking. I had never considered the subtle racism that the media implied by calling the black families "looters" and white ones "hungry." And the whole idea of allowing the National Guard to shoot looters kind of defeated the purpose of helping the distraught, didn't it? By using the term "us" near the end of his commentary, West showed a sense of further empathy that he felt for the black victims that non-black Americans may not feel, in his opinion. His views may or may not be wholly true, but they nonetheless attest the segregation amongst races that still exists in our society. They also helped publicize the tense views held by some blacks in this country.
Are West's stances too emotional and radical or are they insightful? Clint Wilson, director of the Black Press Institute sees some truth in West's words. He told the Buffalo News that the National Guards' permission to shoot the looters and was unsurprising to the black community and confirmed their long-held beliefs. West's outrage was shared by them, as well. Wilson believes that more racially diverse journalists are needed to help combat the one-siding of media coverage. But by judging the media's past, he has little faith that the coverage of blacks will change (buffalonews.com).- Alina