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« President of Vice: The War on Corruption and Obasanjo's Complicity | Main | Are Nigerians United Against Corruption or is it, You First? »

September 10, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Exposed Endemic Inequality for Africans

by Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa --- One guy stood out in my mind, he said Africa looks good to me now. Others white and black who have seen Tsunami in Asia, famine in Africa and war in Europe claimed they have not seen anything like this. That it happened is nobody’s fault, that it took so long to come to peoples’ aid in the most powerful and richest country in the whole world leaves more than an indelible mark on our faces.

If America could have prevented it right there and then, it could have. Sincerely, no reasonable human would have wished so much destruction on their own people. But that area belongs to the powerless who were caught in their entrenched economic realities. As we all cry and wonder, we must not miss the point. The economic realities did not just hit New Orleans, it was part of America before Hurricane Katrina hit. Those who could afford it got out of the way but some were simply helpless.

It is a fact that blacks are three times as likely to be poor as whites did not just hit New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina or that most blacks live in the ghetto. I have been accused that Nigerians run away from the ghetto too. New Orleans accommodated all of us during and after festivals. I made calls there searching for friends who later told me they lost everything; one was more concern about his documents! I remember the actress who said – I have been to Africa, I have seen Africans, I am not an African.

One of those water coolers at work conversation between an African man and woman went like: If you say that to me, I will just shove you aside. She answered him: if you try it, you will find yourself in Africa. Another African who was listening said: at least he has a country to go, where are you going to go?

It is one thing to get hit by the train while daring its part on the railway line, it is another if the train departs into our houses. Poor people, no matter where they are, always get the short end of the stick. In bad times, most stick together but as they start to gain some leverage, some of us get drunk!

New Orleans is similarly situated as Lagos, Warri, Port Harcourt, etc in Nigeria. Indeed, these areas have experienced series of minor floods. Nevertheless, most of us have no where else we can call home and no place to go.

All those who are pointing fingers at America should ask themselves, what they are doing for the poor in their own countries. In France, some African immigrants lost their life in two apartment buildings fire that could have been prevented if the authorities took precautions regarding substandard code violations. When the Ikeja cantonment blew up in Lagos, Obasanjo was booed when he later came. People even got angrier when he said he did not have to be there. Some leaders forgot that whether you are baby Bush, Blair or Obasanjo, your foremost responsibility is the welfare of your people.

Of course baby Bush could have shown more concern, caring and responded earlier. That could have made a difference. Sometimes it is not enough to be fair, one must be seen as being fair. There is no reason for the people to have gone without food and water for more than a day in America.

Baby Bush came from a good home in the East (eastern part of USA). Gary Trudeau of Doonesbury poked fun at the papa Bush he knew at Yale who was not as conservative. After that time, we know papa Bush who was a moderate conservative in the primary election with Ronald Reagan. We credited him with “Voodoo Economics” label of Reagan economic plan then. But as American moves to the right, politicians move along in order to win elections.

Baby Bush is a likable guy one would like to have a beer and esiewu with. How can you dislike a guy who at college convocation and told graduating C students that he was a C student himself, that they may become the President of America one day.

As conservatives who wanted to win election, both papa and baby Bush became cow boy Texans with swagger. That the President reacted too slowly to Hurricane Katrina was a miscalculation on the part of his handlers. That Bush does not care about black people, according to Kaye West, is how most blacks feels he comes across. I think he was just indifferent, which is a great deal for blacks.

But baby Bush knows how to appeal to voters. In the last narrow election, he appealed to the conservative instinct of black churches in Ohio about increasing acceptance of the gays in the Country. They helped deliver Ohio to him.

Hurricane Katrina and the reaction of Bush crossed political leanings and most of the people in the Country blamed every level of Government for the late reaction. The conservatives handler were out of synch with the Country and did not make Bush look good to the rest of the world. One can not anticipate the reaction of humans all the time.
The fear is out there that Hurricane Katrina may rekindle the liberal side of America.

Even worse, were the portrayal of blacks on television as criminal “looting” stores for food in other to feed their families, while white families who were doing the same were just “takers” of food. These stereotypes did not just hit as the hurricane. It has always been there. A black man running around the neighborhood is stealing; a white man running is jogging.

The total evacuation of the area can be frightening not only to whites who do not want to lose their homes, but also to blacks who have many experiences of urban renewal. It is more than evacuation for blacks, urban renewal always turn into “nigger removal”. By the time the place is redeveloped, blacks would not be able to afford it.

I have heard about billions of dollars that are being allocated, with more coming. How much of this money will actually benefit the victims is the real task. There are big time contractors, developers and speculators standing by to do “good” for the victims who would loose their properties. Someone suggested that Jimmy Carter should oversee rebuilding. I doubt that will happen. Carter stands for non-profit organizations.

In addition to that, the new US Supreme Court ruling about the use of eminent domain to change the neighborhood in order to attract more taxes for the cities by building new housing developments will be too much for both poor blacks and whites.

At the same time the amount of sewage and diseases floating in the flood in and out of the houses has become a public health issue. It has become a no win situation. We just have to wait and watch how much compensation those who would leave all they have ever own would get.

If there is any silver lining in all this, it is the resolve of the Africans to come together and create a fund so that when a similar disaster strikes again, we do not have to wait for government to take care of our people. My own fear is that this has been proposed many times before. As soon as time and weather change, we forget our histories of survival despite the odds against us.

Some of those who gain by quota in those days, have turned against it now that it has become a bad word. Most of the government contracts and positions set aside for minorities have been challenged in courts as reverse discrimination. We then move on to “affirmative action”, which has been discredited. Actually, most of the beneficiaries are women, a welcomed break. The new word now is “diversity”. I do not know how long that is going to last. Hurricane Katrina is a reminder that the same battle is being fought over and over again.

After all is said and done, Africans will always find ways to survive even in America. We may be surprise by the poverty in America; it still has the richest blacks on earth.

Posted by Administrator at September 10, 2005 06:58 PM


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