Wednesday, August 30, 2006

What Did Gettysburg Learn from Katrina?

It's hard not to be thinking about Katrina these days. I just visited over at Majikthise where Lindsay loaded up her photos of NOLA and Baton Rouge from last year. NPR has been dominated by reminiscings of Katrina and where things stand. Even my textbook for Intro to WS rewrote the introduction to include an analysis of the FEMA and Gov't failure to respond to Katrina and its aftermath.

What still haunts me about this episode from our very recent past is the simple truth that had the victims--those left behind in NOLA--of Katrina been middle-class White people, the government failure would have never occurrred. Racism.

This weekend my little town is holding a Community Unity day to draw attention away from the KKK, who are doing their thing on the battlefield. One of the posters reads that this day is committed to celebrating diversity. I don't doubt this intention. I just wonder what it means to my little town to celebrate diversity and how much of an effort will be made to forge a community that will not let the less fortunate be left behind in a tragedy. I hate to be the skeptic . . .

How immune are any or our towns--large or small--to the crushing and dehumanizing forces of institutionalized racism? Sure, most of the town will gladly show up to protest the overt forms of racism that only fringe groups still celebrate. But to what extent will most supporters of this unity day actually fight or act concretely to transform the the lives of impoverished in our community--African-Americans, Latinos, emigrees from Russia or Bosnia, etc. Pushes for economic development price most working people out of housing in the borough. NCLB programs penalize students who are struggling to learn English. Health Insurance is unobtainable for most working class people. Well paying jobs are scarce for people who didn't get a good education. Schools underserve the most needy populations. The list is so long and unfathomable that most people give up and choose to fight the obvious: the KKK.