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September 11, 2005



I think Kanye West is making an important point--one that I think you have described well. The portrayal of non-white persons involved in and affected by the hurricane is not the same as that of previous disaster victims who were mostly white. "Refugees"--the popular term in the media at first--is an odd term for those who are citizens of this country...but it makes perfect sense for a mainstream culture who sees the hurricane victims as "other", as a group that is different from themselves. Gratefully, we have changed our wording to slightly more accurate terms like "evacuees" and "the relocated". But our first choice of words betrayed how mainstream/majority-white media saw the hurricane survivors. Not as "our own", not as "us," but as "them." And that's a sad commentary on our country and our culture. However, I think the young people of this country can empower the rest of us by standing up and reaching out to the Katrina survivors and their families in ways that honors the humanity of ALL of our people. Let us bless each other with words and generous actions that would be a blessing to us.


Its interesting that you asked whether Kanye's words were too emotional or insightful because I think strong emotions are sometimes caused by insight. I am appalled at recent events, but sadly, not surprised. As a black woman, its hard sometimes. You live with the history of the world in one part your mind, but your own personal day-to-day dealings can lead you to believe that times have changed, its time to move on. And then something happens that causes your chain to jerk.

You also mentioned media bias. Its something that can cut many ways. While we were all wondering at the inherent racism in the media AND wondering what took the government so long, there were (and maybe still are) communities made up primarily of the white and poor still awaiting FEMA. So, on the one hand, black people did not receive particularly gracious coverage. On the other, the plight of whole communities went unnoticed because they were neither black nor rich.

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