Equally as disheartening as the actual damage caused by Hurricane Katrina is the inadequate reaction on the part of our nation’s government.
For years it has been known that a hurricane the size and severity of Katrina would likely destroy New Orleans, yet evacuation plans were obviously not ready. What is most disturbing is that it seems the plans gave no consideration to those living in poverty.
Even more embarrassing than the lack of planning is the nations slow response once the tragedy became known.
Note that less than 24 hours after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration was able to coordinate the evacuation of Osama Bin Laden’s family members from the country, yet Bush couldn’t get down to New Orleans to survey the damage in that same amount of time.
Instead, we saw the mayor of New Orleans, a primarily black and vastly impoverished city, on national TV begging for national assistance for five days.
Twenty percent of New Orleans’ population lives below the poverty line; that’s an annual income of less than $13,000 for a family of two. The people left in New Orleans did not have the financial means to get out of the city.
These people are not like the victims of 9/11, who were professionals with retirement funds to dip into.
As a nation, we have watched the poverty level in the United States increase steadily for the last five years. The number of people living below the poverty line is up 1.1 million from 2003.
The bias against our nation’s poor is not only a product of the Bush administration but also the media, as coverage of Hurricane Katrina has proven. Clips of so-called “looters” were almost all of black people, and the majority of them obviously filmed in poorer parts of town.
Unfortunately, rather than acting quickly to get supplies to those in need, the government responded by sending troops to “control looters.”
I’m sorry, does that even sound right? People are left dying in their attics and Lt. Gen. Blum of the National Guard states that he is sending troops who just returned from combat and are “highly proficient in the use of lethal force” to control looting.
Let them take what they feel they need. The little bit Wal-Mart and other corporations lose from looting will be placed right back into their pockets when the Red Cross buys supplies from them and the federal government gives them a tax break for their relatively meager donations.
While the American people have opened their hearts, homes and their pocket books, the Bush Administration has dragged its feet and failed the American people.
Lady Liberty would bow her head in shame to see how a government that once said, “Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses…” has managed to forget about those same people even during the greatest natural disaster the nation has ever faced.
Ketiwe Zipperer is a third year business student from Milwaukee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org